(Trenton) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Timothy Eustace (D-Bergen, Passaic) and Daniel Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex) to provide a safe way for residents to dispose of prescription drugs was approved on Thursday by an Assembly panel.
In June of 2011, following a public hearing outlining the changing dynamics of the criminal drug trade, the State of New Jersey Commission of Investigation (SCI) found that a growing number of young people are abusing prescription drugs, and noted a significant trend in which the practice has led to increases, not only in the number of young people addicted to painkillers, but to the number of young people using heroin as well. The report issued by the SCI in July of 2013, “Scenes from an Epidemic” confirms this finding and notes that addiction often begins with leftover prescription medicines in the home.
The sponsors proposed the legislation to encourage residents to throw away unused prescriptions in a safe manner and help prevent youth access and potential abuse.
“Disposing of unused prescription drugs is as equally important as taking them as prescribed,” Eustace said. “Prescription drug use is prevalent in many communities and much of the abuse begins at home where the drugs were easily accessible.”
“The number of young people experimenting and becoming addicted to prescription drugs is rapidly rising,” Benson said. “Unfortunately, there are a number of ways to access these types of drugs but studies show in many cases access begins at home with unsecured prescriptions.”
The bill (A-2859) requires the Division of Consumer Affairs to supply and install in every State Police barracks and county sheriff’s department, and every county police department and full-time municipal police department which agrees to participate, a secure prescription medicine drop-off receptacle where the public many dispose of unused prescription medications. The receptacles are to be available to the public seven days a week. The bill requires police departments that do not have receptacles on site to post notification advising the public where the closest receptacles are located.
The division has developed a program called “Project Medicine Drop” in an effort to combat the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control, 40 Americans die every day from an overdose caused by prescription painkiller abuse. These overdoses account for more deaths than overdoses of heroin and cocaine combined.
“There is a proper way to dispose of old and unused prescriptions,” Eustace said. “This legislation would provide a safe place to throw them away and keep them out of the hands of anyone they were not prescribed for.”
“Prescription drug safety begins our homes,” Benson said. “By cleaning out our medicine cabinets, we remove temptation and, hopefully, express the importance of disposing of prescriptions properly when you’re finished with them.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified prescription drug abuse as an epidemic. While there has been a marked decrease in the use of some illegal drugs like cocaine, data from the Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) show that nearly one-third of people aged 12 and over who used drugs for the first time in 2009 began by using a prescription drug non-medically.
“Project Medicine Drop” has expanded so there is presently at least one drop-off location in every county. This bill will expand the program even further to ensure that residents of this State are able to easily access secure drop-boxes within their communities in order to safely dispose of their unused and potentially dangerous medications.
The measure was released by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.