Eustace, Benson, Vainieri Huttle, Lagana, Caride & Sumter Bill Package to Encourage Safe Disposal of Prescription Drugs, Prevent Abuse Moves Forward

The full Senate recently granted approval to a two-bill package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Timothy Eustace, Daniel Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Joseph Lagana, Marlene Caride and Shavonda Sumter to provide a safe way for New Jersey residents to dispose of prescription drugs and to create greater awareness of these pathways.

"Disposing of unused prescription drugs properly is equally as important as taking them as prescribed," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Prescription drug abuse is prevalent in many communities, and much of that abuse begins at home where the drugs are easily accessible." 

The bill package is designed to encourage residents to throw away unused prescriptions in a safe manner and help prevent youth access and potential abuse. 

The first bill (A-2859), sponsored by Eustace, Benson, Vainieri Huttle, Lagana and Caride, formally establishes the "Project Medicine Drop" program, which shall be administered by the Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. 

The director shall continue to maintain at each participating law enforcement agency that meets program participation requirements a secure prescription medicine drop-off receptacle wherein unused or expired prescription drugs and other common household medications may be anonymously surrendered by members of the public seven days a week, 365 days a year. 

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 that the practice has led to increases not only in the number of young people addicted to painkillers, but also in the number of young people using heroin. The report issued by the SCI in July 2013, "Scenes from an Epidemic," confirms this finding and notes that addiction often begins with leftover prescription medicines in the home.

"The number of young people experimenting with and becoming addicted to prescription drugs is rapidly rising," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "Unfortunately, there are a number of ways to access these types of drugs, but studies show that in many cases access begins at home with unsecured prescriptions." 

"Drop-off receptacles will provide a safe place to throw away prescription drugs and keep them out of the hands of any people trying to sell the drugs or take them without a prescription," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This legislation will be a crucial element in our statewide battle against addiction." 

"Prescription drug abuse kills more people each day than heroin and cocaine overdoses combined in America," said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Unfortunately, addiction to these drugs can have its origin not on the street corner, but in the medicine cabinet. By giving clear directions on how to properly dispose of these drugs, we can help stop problems before they begin."

"Whether they go into the trash and unauthorized individuals abuse them or they are flushed down the toilet and into our waterways, unused prescription drugs are poisons that threaten the wellness of our communities," said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic). "These receptacles will require minimal cost and effort from law enforcement, but they will go a long way toward curbing addiction in New Jersey." 

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.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control, 40 Americans die every day from an overdose caused by prescription painkiller abuse.

The second bill (A-709), sponsored by Benson, Sumter and Lagana, would require pharmacies and prescribers to supply patients with a Division of Consumer Affairs notice publicizing available drug take-back programs and giving suggestions for the safe disposal of drugs with each controlled dangerous substance dispensed. 

The sponsors highlighted the bill's focus on creating awareness, which they believe is a fundamental part of preventing fatal interactions with prescription medication.

"With its emphasis on educating the public, this measure is critical in our effort to prevent overdoses and save lives," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "This bill will help prevent drugs from getting into the wrong hands and, hopefully, eliminate the scourge that is prescription drug abuse in New Jersey."

"The more people understand the dangers of prescription drugs, the more attentive they will be about how they dispose of them," said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). "This legislation acknowledges the fact that stopping prescription drug abuse has to be a community effort." 

"Prescription drug abuse kills more people each day than heroin and cocaine overdoses combined in America," said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Unfortunately, addiction to these drugs can have its origin not on the street corner, but in the medicine cabinet. By giving clear directions on how to properly dispose of these drugs, we can help stop problems before they begin."

Both bills, which had previously been approved by the Assembly, were approved 35-0 by the Senate and now head back to the Assembly for final concurrence on changes made in the Senate before heading to the Governor's desk.