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Drug take-back program to expand at state level

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

CLIFFVIEW PILOT HAS IT FIRST: Little Falls is one of three police departments chosen for “Project Medicine Drop,” a special state Division of Consumer Affairs pilot program that will allow residents to get rid of prescription drugs at any time, instead of only on special days of the year.

From left: Dr. Christina Tan, deputy director of the NJ Department of Health and Senior Services, Little Falls Police Chief John Dmuchowski, NJ Gov. Chris Christie, Seaside Heights Police Lt. John Lombardi, NJ Attorney General Paula T. Dow, DCA Director Thomas R. Calcagni  and Brian R. Crowell, Special Agent in Charge of the NJ Division of the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)

Metal drop boxes will be placed in secured areas of municipal police departments, within view of officers.

“Members of the public will be allowed to come in and drop off their unused drugs; the police will then take possession of and destroy them,” the same as they do with illegal drugs, DCA Director Thomas R. Calcagni said.

“Reports indicate that over 12 million Americans abused prescription drugs in the last year alone, while prescription opioid overdose now kills more people than cocaine and heroin combined,” he added. “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.”

Seaside Heights and Vineland have agreed to join Little Falls in the pilot program. State and federal officials hope to have at least one drop box in every New Jersey county, said Calcagni, who announced the initiative this morning with state Attorney General Paula T. Dow.

The program takes attempts to fight the diversion and abuse of prescription drugs a quantum leap forward.

It plays off medication “take back” days across the nation, one of which recently saw 16,560 pounds of pills – more than eight tons – returned in the Los Angeles area alone. Little Rock, Arkansas, took in more than six tons just last week.

“Many people mistakenly believe prescription painkillers are less dangerous and less addictive than cocaine or heroin – but they are tragically wrong,” 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.”

All told, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration says people turned in more than 188.5 tons of unwanted or expired prescription medications in the agency’s third National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Oct. 29.

The DEA initiative that began 13 months ago has collected nearly 500 tons of medications that otherwise could have ended up in the hands of dealers or abusers.

There is also an American Medicine Chest initiative, which was held this past weekend nationwide.

Both programs are held only on certain days of the year, however. “Project Medicine Drop” will be available seven days a week, 365 days a year, officials said this morning.

Vicodin, Percocet, Klonopin and other medications are becoming the drugs of choice for abusers nationwide.

Pharmaceutical drug abuse has become such an epidemic in middle class America that the national Centers for Disease Control says enough painkillers were prescribed last year to medicate every American adult around the clock for a month.

The official announcement was made this morning at a news conference in Newark that included Dow, Calcagni, Little Falls Police Chief John Dmuchowski, Brian R. Crowell, the Special Agent in Charge of the New Jersey Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and state Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd .

The problem with flushing meds, they said, is the potential for release into the water supply. Tossing them with the trash gives hardcore abusers an opportunity to find them.

INFO: NJDCA “Med Drop”

In case you didn’t know:

• 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 DCA is also preparing to launch New Jersey’s first 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.

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