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What happens when a doctor writes more of a prescription than needed leaving excess medication? Unfortunately, most unused medications are simply dumped down the toilet or thrown in the trash, where they could ultimately contaminate the water or result in accidental overdoses by children and other family members
Additionally, there is an increasing epidemic of prescription drug overdose. Abuse of prescription painkillers sends thousands of New Jersey residents into addiction treatment each year, and kills more Americans than cocaine and heroin combined. The Center for Disease Control says that from 2000 to 2009, the number of children aged 15 to 19 who died from poisoning increased by 91 percent. In 2010, New Jersey alone saw more than 7,000 admissions to State-licensed or certified substance abuse treatment programs due to prescription painkiller abuse – a 230 percent increase from 2005.
Part of the problem is a misconception that prescription drugs are not as serious or as dangerous as other drugs. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has reported that two in five teenagers mistakenly believe prescription drugs are “much safer” than illegal drugs. Recognition that this problem exists is critical to ensuring that steps are taken to combat this staggering trend.
I was proud to join with Police Chief DelCampo and Attorney General Chiesa last week to announce a partnership to expand “Project Medicine Drop,” a statewide initiative that helps everyday citizens get involved and join the fight against the abuse of addictive, deadly prescription drugs. As a result of this partnership, we have installed a new Project Medicine Drop box inside of Town Hall just outside of the Police window. Cherry Hill Residents are invited to come in and use the boxes 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, to dispose of their unused and expired prescription medications without any questions asked.
The drop box is for household prescription medications only. Residents should empty their pills, capsules, or blister packs into a ziplock back to then deposit into the drop box at town hall. Residents should not deposit the containers with personal information from their prescription containers, liquids or syringes.
Cherry Hill will realize significant benefits from participating in this program. First, we are now providing a secure and environmentally sound method of prescription drug disposal, and one that will help protect our water supply. Second, we’re helping Cherry Hill residents get excess medications out of their homes. Third, and perhaps most important, we are encouraging people to think differently about their prescription medications, encouraging and emphasizing safe use of such medications.
Along with the disposal of excess and expired prescriptions, families should talk about the dangers of taking prescription and over-the-counter medications for nonmedical and non-approved purposes. They should be alert for any possible signs of drug abuse and addiction as well. For people who have to keep many different medications in the home, they should consider keeping them in one place like a locked cabinet, drawer or childproof lockbox.
By taking the simple step of discarding excess medication and educating our residents, everyday citizens can help protect themselves, their families and our community from this growing problem.