PDFNJ/DEA-NJ Initiative Modeled for National Program


Prescription drug abuse program that started in N.J. goes nationwide

Published: Sunday, September 19, 2010, 6:56 PM     Updated: Monday, September 20, 2010, 5:14 AM
Joe Moszczynski/The Star-Ledger 

SUSSEX COUNTY — A prescription drug collection program that got its start in New Jersey last year is going nationwide this year to include more than 2,700 sites in all 50 states, a spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said.

The National Prescription Drug Take-Back campaign, which is primarily aimed at preventing teenagers from raiding their parents’ medicine cabinet in search of drugs to get high, is modeled after New Jersey’s Operation Medicine Cabinet, a program that netted 9,500 pounds of pain killers, antidepressants and other medications last year.

“New Jersey is being used as a model. We were very happy with last year’s results,” said Special Agent Douglas Collier of the DEA’s New Jersey division.

This year’s national program and Operation Take-Back New Jersey will be held simultaneously in about 400 New Jersey towns on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 
Collection sites include police headquarters, libraries, pharmacies and supermarkets.

“We want people to go into their medicine cabinets and look for drugs that are expired or they don’t use anymore,” said Collier. “Medicine cabinets are a source of supply. We want to eliminate that.”

For most young people, especially first-time drug users, the most common way to find drugs to get high is to search their parents’ bathroom.

“It outnumbers the use of heroin and cocaine for first-time users among adolescents,” said Collier. “How many people have locks on their cabinets? But how many people have locks on their liquor cabinets?”

Over-the-counter medications also will be accepted and all contributors will remain anonymous. Town-by-town weight totals are not kept to protect anonymity.

Missy Miller, a pharmacist and co-owner of North Country Pharmacy in Franklin Borough, said she decided to join the program this year as a service to the community.

“It’s good for seniors because it gives them a chance to dispose of medicines they’re not using anymore and it’s good for children because it prevents them from gaining access to the drugs,” she said.

Although this is North Country Pharmacy’s first time collecting unused drugs, Miller said she expects a large number of painkillers, many of which are addictive, to be surrendered.
“Pain killers are mostly used for a short period of time. Most people don’t use them all of the time,” she said.

Miller also expects a strong turnout in the Sussex County community.

“There’s been good response. A lot of people said they are going to be coming in,” she said.

Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith, whose township had moderate success with the program last year, said in urban settings people think of street drugs as being the culprit, but he said young people are smart enough to know that they can get illegal drugs right in their own home.

“I think the greatest piece of (the program) is to make the parents aware of knowing what they have in their medicine cabinet,” Smith said.

Carteret police Sgt. Stephen Tardiff said Operation Take-Back New Jersey simply gives people the opportunity to safely get rid of their old medications, noting that flushing them down the toilet contributes to pollution in local waterways.

“You can get rid of some of the old stuff that you don’t know what to do with,” said Tardiff, whose town in Middlesex County participated in last year’s drug roundup and will be participating again on Saturday.

The unwanted medications will be incinerated by the DEA. Intravenous solutions, injectables and needles, as well as illicit drugs, will not be accepted. For more information and to find local collection sites, visit operationtakebacknj.com.