Yearly initiative offers safe disposal of medicine
Medicine Take-Back program fails to attract participants at on-campus site
Despite a modest turnout in previous years, even fewer people participated Saturday in the fourth annual Middlesex County Medicine Take-Back program, an initiative to collect and dispose old prescription drugs.
The drop-off location at the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus did not receive any medication, said Richard McGilvery, a Rutgers University Police Department officer.
McGilvery said the site was not an ideal place to hold the drop-off, because of its location on campus in the lower floors of the student center.
The problem, he said, is that people on campus are mostly students who do not have access to prescription drugs, rather than older individuals who have accumulated some, he said.
“In many cases, a loved one, a spouse or parent may have accrued a number of medication and has passed away, and [the family is] looking for an opportunity to get rid of that,” Edison Police Department Sgt. Robert Dudash said.
The nationwide initiative provides a safe way to dispose of any prescription or over-the-counter medications that may have accumulated in cabinets over the years by bringing them to designated collection sites, said Heather Ward, a preventionist at the Middlesex County branch of the NCADD.
“The medicine take-back is a program that helps get unused prescription medication off the street and out of medicine cabinets,” she said.
Many people resort to flushing their unwanted medications down the toilet, a method Dudash said is an especially dangerous method of disposal.
“It is strongly recommended not to flush these items down the toilet. That was the old way,” Dudash said. “Ultimately these medications can get into our drinking water, and in many cases they are not filtered out because they are not known contaminants.”
The medicine will be incinerated in a safe location after the collection is complete, he said.
Ward said having a safe way to dispose of unused medications is a key part of the NCADD’s mission.
“The NCADD is dedicated to preventing drug and alcohol abuse through education and other programs, and we’d rather they turn it in than just throw it away,” she said.
More than 7 tons of expired or unused medication was turned in and disposed of in New Jersey in 2010, Ward said.
Sgt. Thomas Keefe of the New Brunswick Police Department said in past years, a normal turnout was considered to be about seven or eight people.
The initiative has been successful in the past because people end up with surplus medication without even realizing it, Ward said.
“The interesting thing is that people come back year after year, and they don’t realize how much over-the-counter medication has piled up [such as] Tylenol, Nyquil, Excedrin,” she said. “Almost everyone says, ‘I didn’t realize I had all this in my house,’” she said.
The program, which was a collaborative effort between Drug Enforcement Administration, the NCADD of Middlesex County and local law enforcement, had other drop-off locations including the Middlesex County Courthouse and the New Brunswick Police Department headquarters.
Some collection sites in the state have been so successful they have remained open year-round, she said.