| NEWARK – Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Thomas R. Calcagni, Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, today led a group of statewide public health and safety partners in announcing the launch of “Project Medicine Drop” – an important component in the Division’s campaign to halt the diversion and abuse of prescription drugs.
Project Medicine Drop is a pilot program in which, beginning today, the Division of Consumer Affairs will install “prescription drug drop boxes” at three New Jersey police departments – those in Little Falls, Seaside Heights, and Vineland. Once the boxes are in place, members of the public will have the opportunity to dispose of their unused and expired prescription medications safely and securely. The opportunity is available to the public seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Attorney General Dow and Director Calcagni noted that today’s announcement builds on the success of the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Take Back Initiative, and the American Medicine Chest Challenge, which is sponsored in New Jersey by the DEA, Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey, and Sheriffs’ Association of New Jersey. The most recent DEA Take Back Day was held October 29, and the most recent American Medicine Chest initiative was held November 11. Both programs enabled members of the public to drop off their unused medications at pre-identified, secure locations throughout those days.
Project Medicine Drop makes the opportunity available throughout the year. The three police departments that have agreed to host the medicine drop boxes will maintain custody of the deposited drugs, and dispose of them according to their normal procedures for the custody and destruction of controlled dangerous substances. They will report the quantity of discarded drugs to the Division of Consumer Affairs on a quarterly basis.
“For too many New Jersey teenagers, addiction begins in the medicine cabinet. National surveys show teenagers who abuse these drugs often take them from relatives, or get them from friends. Many people mistakenly believe prescription painkillers are less dangerous and less addictive than cocaine or heroin – but they are tragically wrong,” Attorney General Dow said. “The fight against addiction must therefore begin at home. This pilot program will enable New Jerseyans who wish to get rid of their unused medications, to do so throughout the year in a safe and secure manner.”
Consumers from anywhere in New Jersey may deposit their medications in any of the three drop boxes being installed this week. The Division plans to expand the program in 2012, to include police departments in each of New Jersey’s 21 counties.
“Forty Americans die each day as a result of prescription painkiller abuse,” said Thomas R. Calcagni, Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. “Reports indicate that over twelve million Americans abused prescription drugs in the last year alone, while prescription opioid overdose now kills more people than cocaine and heroin combined. With the abuse of prescription drugs reaching epidemic proportions, it’s the obligation of all of us to ensure that unused medication is disposed of securely and responsibly. Today, we’re inviting parents, grandparents, and others to join us on the front lines of the battle against prescription drug abuse. The simple act of depositing your unused medications with Project Medicine Drop will help prevent addiction, and help save lives.”
Dow and Calcagni pointed out that flushing unused medications – especially those classified as controlled dangerous substances (CDS) – down the toilet, or discarding them in the trash, poses health risks. Scientists have expressed concerns about the effects of medications released into water supplies after flushing down the toilet or sink, and the US Geological Survey has found traces of pharmaceuticals in streams in 30 states. Placing drugs in the trash creates the potential that they will be found by those seeking to sell or abuse them.
“Abuse of prescription drugs is a growing epidemic in this country that results in 15,000 deaths annually,” said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd. “Project Medicine Drop will provide a safe and convenient way to dispose of prescription drugs and at the same time help us prevent addiction, harmful overdoses or accidental death."
Project Medicine Drop will place unused drugs in the custody of the Little Falls Police Department, Seaside Heights Police Department, and Vineland Police Department. These agencies are authorized to take custody of controlled dangerous substances, keep them secure, and safely destroy them.
Information about the boxes, and their specific locations, can be found atwww.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/meddrop.
Facts about the abuse of prescription drugs:
- The New Jersey State Commission of Investigation reported in June 2011 that a growing number of young people are abusing prescription drugs – and noted a significant trend in which the practice has led not only to increased incidences of painkiller addiction, but to the abuse of heroin.
- The DEA reports that prescription drugs, including opioids and antidepressants, are responsible for more overdose deaths than “street drugs” such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines.
- The number of American teenagers and adults who abuse prescription drugs is greater than those who use cocaine, hallucinogens, and heroin combined, according to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, compiled by the US Department of Health and Senior Services.
- Two in five teenagers believe prescription drugs are “much safer” than illegal drugs, according to the DEA, and three in 10 teens believe prescription painkillers are not addictive.
- Each day, 2,500 youths nationally abuse a prescription pain reliever for the very first time, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The Division of Consumer Affairs is preparing to launch New Jersey’s Prescription Monitoring Program (NJPMP), a statewide electronic database for the tracking of prescription controlled dangerous substances (CDS) and human growth hormone (HGH) dispensed in New Jersey by pharmacists in outpatient settings, and dispensed into New Jersey by out-of-state pharmacies.
The NJPMP data will help the Division identify the warning signs of “doctor shopping,” in which abusers obtain prescriptions from multiple doctors in order to hide the full quantity of drugs they are purchasing. The NJPMP is also expected to help identify the indiscriminate prescribing and dispensing of controlled dangerous substances by medical practitioners and pharmacists, as well as assist in informing public health initiatives by outlining trends of the use and abuse of prescription drugs.
Calcagni also noted that the Division – which includes all of the State’s healthcare professional licensing boards, including the Board of Medical Examiners and the Board of Pharmacy – has been partnering with law enforcement, regulators, and professional associations throughout New Jersey and the country, in a combined effort to halt prescription drug abuse.
He specifically gave credit to the DEA, New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey, New Jersey Poison Information and Education Center, Little Falls Police Department, Seaside Heights Police Department, and Vineland Police Department for their efforts.
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