For Dr. Jamil Mohsin, president of the Camden County Medical Society, the statistics don't get much more frightening when it comes to prescription drug abuse.
With 40 deaths across the country every day, and prescription drug abuse now outpacing heroin and cocaine abuse combined, efforts like Make a Difference Day—Saturday's effort to get New Jersey residents to turn in unused prescription drugs—are more important than ever.
“The numbers are astounding—there's more prescription drug abuse than there is cocaine or heroin, just because of the easy access,” Mohsin said. “We just need to be very cognizant of the fact that these are accessible to kids and we just need to take them out of the reach of kids...kids are more exposed to this problem than adults are, just because they have more access to prescription medication than they do illegal drugs.”
Make a Difference Day is being held in coordination with Project Medicine Drop sites across the state—including locations at the Cherry Hill Police Department, at 820 Mercer Street in Cherry Hill, and the Haddon Heights Police Department, at 625 Station Avenue in Haddon Heights—as part of a concerted effort to reduce that abuse.
Cherry Hill's permanent Project Medicine Drop box has resulted in 960 pounds of drugs getting turned in, and there are plans to expand the drop box program and add in a mobile element, officials said.
The sheer volume is proof there's a demand for a spot to turn in drugs and prevent abuse before it starts, Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt said.
“It's evident that it works,” she said. “We need to expand this to ensure it's in every community.”
Prevention is key, Mohsin said, to stopping a problem that's already ballooning out of control—admissions to addiction treatment programs in New Jersey has spiked in the last decade, with a 700-percent increase in admissions because of prescription drug problems.
“There is definitely evidence that people who do abuse prescription drugs...do tend to move into more illegal drug abuse later in their lives,” Mohsin said. “The problem is under-advertised.”
The Project Medicine Drop locations locally take any household drugs—not vitamins or other non-prescription medications—in pill or capsule form. Before dropping off your old medications, officials advise pulling off any identifying information; entire bottles can otherwise be left in the drop boxes.