Prescription Drug Abuse
Prescription drug abuse continues to be a growing problem throughout the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data in late 2016 that show overdose deaths associated with prescription and illicit opioids increased in 2015 to more than 33,000. Heroin overdose deaths increased 23 percent in 2015 to nearly 13,000.
A 2013 study found that about one in four American teens had used prescription drugs for nonmedical uses. Unfortunately, the prescription drug abuse problem has been exacerbated by the availability of the drugs in the homes of friends and family. More than half of all teens in Arkansas report that it is easy to obtain prescription drugs from their parents' or grandparents' medicine cabinets.
Since 2010, the Attorney General's office has teamed up with federal, State and local law enforcement agencies to sponsor the "Monitor, Secure, Dispose" program, which encourages Arkansans to safely dispose of their unused and unwanted prescription drugs. By securely disposing of unused prescription drugs, Arkansans can help the fight against prescription drug abuse and keep pills out of the hands of abusers.
The Attorney General's office is a sponsor of the semi-annual Prescription Drug "Take-Back" Day held each spring and fall. Arkansans can safely dispose of their unused prescription drugs during take-back events by dropping the pills off at collection sites located across Arkansas. The sites are staffed by law enforcement officers, and the drugs are securely disposed of in an environmentally friendly way.
Visit the Arkansas Take Back website for information about the events, year-round drop-off locations and ways to help prevent prescription drug misuse and abuse.
A few simple, effective ways to fight the problem are:
- Keep prescription and over-the-counter medications in a safe place where children and teens cannot acquire them.
- If possible, lock away prescription medications.
- Encourage other adults to secure their medications.
- Keep a running count of how many pills are in each bottle or packet.
- Keep track of refill dates and amounts.
The Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Behavioral Health Services can advise Arkansans of drug-prevention services and resources available in each county. That office may be reached at 501-686-9030.
Mobile Office Takebacks
As part of each county Mobile Office, the Attorney General’s office will partner with a local law enforcement agency to collect prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, pet medicines, medicated ointments and lotions, inhalers, liquid medicines in glass or leak-proof containers and medicine samples as part of a prescription drug take back event.
Prescription Drug Prevention Summit
The fifth annual Arkansas Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Summit in November 2016 provided free training and educational opportunities for law enforcement officers, medical professionals, pharmacists and educators regarding prescription drug abuse prevention and treatment. It seems that almost daily I hear another tragic story of someone losing a loved one to prescription drug abuse. The all-day Summit included breakout sessions to discuss resources and techniques.
Michael K. Gottlieb, of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program director in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, spoke about how states and the federal government can only solve this crisis by working collaboratively. Other sessions included a presentation from Dr. Amy Hawes, Knox County, Tenn., medical examiner, on how medical examiners and coroners can help fight this crisis and from Stephanie Siete, director of public relations for Community Bridges Inc., on the risks associated with vaping and identifying the newest forms of marijuana.
The keynote address was given by Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel. He has launched a DOSE OF REALITY: Prevent Prescription Painkiller Abuse in Wisconsin, which is an education and prevention effort to communicate the risks and dangers of improper painkiller use, storage and disposal. The Summit, which had more than 700 in attendance, was put on in conjunction with the Arkansas Office of the Drug Director, Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy and the Criminal Justice Institute.