Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Safe Disposal for Leftover Medicines

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Safe Disposal for Leftover Medicines

Article excerpt

America's biggest drug problem isn't on the streets. It's in the medicine cabinet.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says prescription drugs such as opioids and anti-depressants are responsible for more overdose deaths each year than the so-called street drugs -- heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines. And the government estimates that every day, 2,500 teenagers get high for the first time using prescription painkillers.

One way to battle the epidemic of pill abuse is to dispose of unwanted or expired pharmaceuticals, officials say, which is what Project Medicine Drop is all about. The program, sponsored by the state Division of Consumer Affairs, has placed pharmaceutical drop boxes all over the state, the newest of which was unveiled Tuesday at the Passaic County Administration building in Paterson.

"We all know that pills are fueling the heroin issue in this state," said Douglas S. Collier, the drug initiative coordinator for Consumer Affairs. "We need to reduce access to these pills."

Collier said powerful, addictive opioids like oxycodone are often the gateway drugs to heroin, which is cheap and widely available on the streets. The road to addiction, he said, often starts at home, with a child or a teenager reaching into an unlocked medicine cabinet.

"We lock the liquor cabinet, but we don't lock the medicine cabinet," he said.

The white drop box on the first floor of the county administration building, at 401 Grand St., is one of six that have been placed around Passaic County. Bergen County, meanwhile, has placed drop boxes in more than a half-dozen police departments.

The locked metal containers are meant for prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications in solid form -- pills, patches, inhalers and similar objects -- rather than liquids, medical waste or syringes.

There's no paperwork to fill out, officials said; people only have to drop the pills in the box. Police will periodically empty the boxes and send the drugs out to be destroyed.

Officials urged people to use the drop boxes rather than dump drugs down the drain or toilet, which they said could end up affecting the drinking water.

Collier said the Consumer Affairs Division will make boxes available to any towns that want them. …

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