Beginning Jan. 1, 2016, pharmacies and prescribers will be required to give patients a Division of Consumer Affairs notice with available drug take-back programs and suggestions for the safe disposal of unused drugs.

(mangostock, ThinkStock)

Gov. Chris Christie signed the bill (A-709) into law in June and it officially takes effect on the first day of the New Year.

“We’re at the epicenter of heroin addiction and many, many times we hear young adults have started on prescription medication so one of the areas that we’re really trying to educate people on is the fact that they need to dispose effectively their unused medications,” said bill co-sponsor, Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini (R-Ocean).

Prescription drugs can be very expensive Angelini explained, and often when someone gets hooked on them, but can’t afford them, they turn to heroin.

“Many times teenagers will go into someone’s medicine cabinet and take out a pill here, a pill there and the person who it was prescribed for unknowingly, unwittingly is a part of this,” Angelini said.

Another sponsor said the law would help create awareness which is a crucial part of preventing fatal overdoses with prescription medication.

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

Under the law, pharmacies, doctors and advanced practice nurses must also make patients aware of the “Project Medicine Drop” program. The program provides for secure collection and safe disposal of unused and expired prescription drugs and household medications. The bill was co-sponsored in the senate by State Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Northfield).

“For young people looking for a high, they often only have to turn to their medicine cabinets at home, filled with highly addictive prescribed pain medication that are unwittingly left there by their parents,” said Whelan in an emailed statement. “With a coordinated educational effort and increased drop-off locations, we can ensure that parents know how best to remove these harmful substances from their house and get them out of the reach of their kids.”

Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at kevin.mcardle@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.

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