ABSECON — Atlantic County residents will be able to get specially designed pouches that render prescription medications useless.
Join Together Atlantic County, a county-based substance-misuse prevention coalition, and the Atlantic County Opiate Task Force are distributing about 2,500 Deterra Drug Deactivation System pouches to promote safe disposal of highly addictive drugs such as opioids.
The small Deterra pouches are lined with a carbon-based material that can neutralize medications when water is added to the pouch. One bag can neutralize up to 90 prescription painkillers, 12 ounces of liquid or 12 patches, according to the manufacturers.
Prescription misuse as a precursor to opioid and heroin addiction has been the focus of prevention advocates and law enforcement while New Jersey experiences near-epidemic levels of addiction, overdoses and deaths.
New Jersey saw more than 900 overdose deaths related to heroin use last year out of 1,587 drug-related deaths, according to December data from the state Medical Examiner’s Office.
Experts have linked some opioid addiction to the over-prescribing of prescriptions by medical professionals.
The number of opioid pain relievers prescribed in the U.S. has skyrocketed in the past 25 years, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 62 prescriptions for pain-killers were written for every 100 residents in New Jersey in 2014.
“Consumers and caregivers should remove expired, unwanted or unused medicines from their home as quickly as possible to help reduce the chance that others may accidentally take or intentionally misuse the unneeded medicine,” coalition members said in a statement.
Inspira Health Network, with the Cumberland, Salem, Gloucester Health and Wellness Alliance and the Southwest Council, purchased 50,000 Deterra disposal pouches in December. It is giving the pouches to Cumberland, Salem and Gloucester County agencies and organizations to distribute to clients for free.
Atlantic County police departments, pharmacies and community members can contact Join Together Atlantic County to get free Deterra pouches to distribute throughout the county by calling 609-272-0100 or going to 626 N. Shore Road in Absecon.