The Lacey Township anti-drug task force is in the final stages of obtaining a drop-off box for unwanted prescription drugs, according to Township Committeeman Gary Quinn, liaison to the police department, who gave an update to the Municipal Alliance at its meeting Monday night.
Based on the success of annual prescription drug collections by the police, the Municipal Alliance and task force have been pushing to have a permanent drop box placed in the police station lobby for residents to deposit their unused pills.
Quinn said they have submitted all the paperwork to the state Attorney General's office, which will give them the box itself, saving the town the $2,500 cost of the box.
"When emptying the box, it must be emptied by two police officers and the items collected must be locked in a storage room until there is enough to send for disposal," said Quinn. "The drugs will be taken to a site in North Jersey, where they will be incinerated."
Captain Dr. David A. Paprota of the Lacey Township Police Department told the Municipal Alliance members prescription drug abuse is the single most troubling issue facing the town currently.
Lacey has had as many as nine overdose deaths in a year, mostly from heroin or the prescription drugs oxycodone or roxicodone, he said. Lacey averages about 36 overdoses each year and has had 28 this year so far.
"Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic," said Paprota. "Hopefully, we will take steps to lessen the problem through the drop box."
Over the summer, Paprota spoke to the parents of Lacey Township High School's incoming freshmen during a school orientation. He said that he frankly told them some of the horror stories he has seen and urged them watch their kids for signs of drug abuse and check their cell phones and Facebook pages.
Oxycodone affects a wide range of people from kids as young as 15 using it as a party drug to a 40 year old man injured on the job getting hooked on it to people as old as 60 abusing it.
"People take it because they feel good on it," said Paprota. "In small doses they feel good, but once you pass a threshold, you no longer feel good — you have a dependence."
But, he said, doctors will only write people prescriptions for so long and those that become dependent find oxycodone and roxicodone are expensive — at $1 a milligram, it could cost $300 a day for the six to 10 pills a person might need to feed their addiction.
The prescription drug dependence could escalate to heroin addiction, as heroin is $5 a bag, Paprota said. There have been 48 arrests for heroin or oxycodone dependence this year.
"A modern today Lacey Township heroin dealer is 18 to 30 years old going to Neptune, Atlantic City or Camden buying a 'brick' of heroin, which is 50 bags," he said. "Out of the 50, they keep half for themselves."
If they don't make enough money on the sale of drugs, they turn to crime, Paprota said. There have been 13 house burglaries in Lacey in just the last couple of weeks and there was a 16 year old township girl who eventually prostituted herself in a nearby town to pay for drugs for her and her boyfriend.
"There are solutions such as the township ordinance that prohibits underage alcohol consumption in a private residence," said Paprota. He applauded the drop box and also suggested a centralized registry for prescriptions to stop people from filling prescriptions at multiple pharmacies. But, he stressed, parents are the key.
"We won't solve the problem with the drop box but we hope they bring attention to the issue," said Heather Scanlon, Municipal Alliance Coordinator. "We are dedicated to informing and educating the parents."