Take Back Day helps keep unwanted medication from misuse

Opioid issue impacts more than 3 percent of people around the country

There are a multitude of ways to battle opioid addiction: One of them is to dispose of  unused prescription medication or pain-relieving opioids at a police department drop box.

New Jersey is one of the few states that has nearly ubiquitous safe medication disposal locations at police departments and other sites. In Burlington and Camden counties,  there are 53 dropoff locations. 

“It’s fantastic,” said Rich Alexander, a senior peer coordinator at the Burlington County Recovery Center. 

Alexander explained that individuals vary in their drug seeking behaviors. Someone who is desperate is “going to do whatever it takes” to get relief, he added. 

Alexander has heard stories of individuals searching for opioids in medicine cabinets during family gatherings, house parties or real-estate showings. The medicine cabinet is also an easy place for teenagers to access. 

Prescription painkiller misuse is common around the country: More than 3 percent of the population misused pain relievers in 2018. It is the second most common form of illicit drug use, according to a 2019 Health and Human Services study.

Delran police Sgt. Fred Irons said the box at his station sees about 300 pounds a year of medication. Bolted to the floor and monitored through audio and video surveillance, the box is emptied regularly and its contents taken twice a year to the Drug Enforcement Administration for proper disposal. 

Nearly any kind of over-the-counter or prescription medication, including controlled substances, are accepted at the boxes, with the exception of needles, sharps and syringes. Illegal drugs are not accepted.  

“For those struggling with substance abuse, there are ways to get help,” said John Pellicane, Camden County Alcohol and Drug Director and Mental Health Administrator. 

The Camden County Office of Mental Health and Addiction is primarily focused on information and referral, planning and monitoring what’s happening in the community, Pellicane noted. It also has a number of grants that fund different services in the community. 

Pellicane explained that the county program’s goal is to “be there and be available” in areas that have high overdose and drug activity. 

“We’re letting folks know that … they’re always welcome to be able to join the recovering community if they choose,” he said. “We just kind of keep rolling out the red carpet.” 

Alexander and the Burlington County Recovery Center have similar priorities.

“It’s really like a judgement-free zone,” he said. “… It’s an environment that’s run by peers, for peers.” 

To find a medication drop box, visit RxDrugDrop.org. Those struggling with substance abuse or addiction can call (609) 726-7087 for the CARES Recovery Resource Center in Burlington County, or (856) 374-6361 for the Office of Mental Health and Addiction in Camden County.