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Narcotics Disposal: Protect Yourself and Your Family

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Patricia Wesch
  • 108th Medical Group
Do you know it's illegal to take prescription medications that were not prescribed for you? That's right, the hydrocodone or oxycodone that your family member takes daily is only for your family member! Do you know that if you take a prescription pain medication that is not prescribed for you, you are jeopardizing your military career? I guarantee you that opiates and benzodiazepines will show up in your urine sample during a random drug test.

I am sure you have had a healthcare provider prescribe a narcotic pain medication at some time in your life. Maybe it was the time you sprained your ankle, your wisdom teeth were pulled or when you pulled your back out? Every time your healthcare provider prescribes you a narcotic medication it is your responsibility to bring that prescription to the Medical Group so we may document it in your health record. If you re-injured yourself a few months later or injured another part of your body, it is not ok to take the left over medication from your last injury. It is also not ok to self-medicate with your friend's or your family member's prescriptions, even if it's "only" a Percocet or Vicodin. Try some RICE... Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevate.

All medications can affect an individual differently. The same medications that are used to decrease pain, inflammation, and improve range of motion can also make you sick. Opiates are addictive! Opiates can cause sedation, a decreased level of consciousness, nausea and vomiting, and decrease your reaction time. If caught driving under the influence of a controlled substance severe penalties can be imposed.

Furthermore, unused medications that collect over time are subject to misuse and theft. According to the CDC, America's prescription drug abuse problem is currently an epidemic. In 2012, approximately 500,000 children aged 12 and older admitted to using narcotic medication for non-medical purposes. These medications were easily accessible in their own home. It is estimated that every day 2,500 youths are taking prescription narcotics for the purposes of getting high. Also, it is estimated that approximately one-fourth of individuals that abuse drugs in the last year started with prescription narcotics. The number of American teenagers currently abusing prescription narcotics is estimated to be greater than those who use cocaine, hallucinogens and heroin combined.

How do we protect ourselves and our family members? Safe and secure medicine disposal. The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has developed Project Medicine Drop. This allows individuals and families to safely dispose of left over narcotic medications. Anonymously, seven days a week and 365 days a year, individuals may take unused and expired medications to their local participating police departments for safe disposal. These secure locked boxes are easily identifiable and labeled "Project Medicine Drop RX".  For more information about this program, visit their webpage at

Protect yourself! Protect your family!