More than 104,000 pounds. That's a lot of drugs.

And according to the Division of Consumer Affairs, which launched Project Medicine Drop in November 2011 for unwanted and expired medications, that's how much the public has contributed to the state's mission as of April 2016, the latest month for which data is available.

Townsquare Media photo

Nearly 200 drop boxes dot the Garden State, mostly inside police stations. As part of the state's efforts to put a dent in the heroin and opiate epidemic, the boxes give residents a chance to clear their medicine cabinets of drugs such as painkillers — which can become a pathway toward addiction.

"There's at least a few boxes in every single county," said Consumer Affairs Director Steve Lee. "We're trying to take these drugs out of circulation, but make sure that they're taken out of circulation in a safe and environmentally-friendly way."

According to Lee, simply throwing medications in the trash makes them too easy to find for possible sellers or abusers. And flushing them down the toilet, he said, is not safe for communities' water supplies.

On Jan. 1, a New Jersey law went into effect requiring prescribers and pharmacies to provide a notice about drug take-back programs to each patient prescribed a medication.

Once collected in the boxes, the unused drugs are destroyed at partnering disposal facilities at no cost to the state.

Medford, Mount Laurel and Ramsey are among the New Jersey towns to introduce drug receptacles into their police departments in 2016.

Lee said it's important that the drop boxes be easily accessible, but they also have to be in secure locations so no one is tempted to tamper with them and remove what's inside for their personal gain.

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