BY STATE SENATOR LARRY TEAGUE –
LITTLE ROCK – Thanks to participation by law enforcement agencies in all regions of the state, Arkansas has one of the most successful prescription drug take-back campaigns in the country.
Since 2010, Arkansas drug prevention and law enforcement teams have collected more than 62 tons of out-of-date prescription drugs turned in by people cleaning out their medicine cabinets.
At a joint meeting of the Legislative Task Forces on Substance Abuse Prevention and Substance Abuse Treatment Services, members heard a report on strategies for curbing the abuse of prescription drugs. Arkansas has become a model for other states because of the success of its take-back programs.
The federal Office of National Drug Control Policy has called for an increase in the number of return and disposal programs, which take excess prescription drugs off the shelves of people’s homes and safely destroy them.
Arkansas has conducted nine take-back days since 2010. Officials gathered 62 tons, or 173 million pills. Task Force members were encouraged by the numbers because those prescriptions drugs were disposed of safely and will not be abused by anyone. Nor will fall into the hands of young people, they cannot be used for criminal purposes and they will not be the cause of an accidental overdose.
Another benefit of take-back programs is that the prescription drugs collected do not end up in streams and waterways, where they can harm wildlife because of their potency. Some prescription drugs can remain in water that has been treated for pollution and sewage, so it is not considered safe to flush drugs down the drain. Some studies indicate that in waterways downstream from large cities the fish and aquatic life are affected by popularly prescribed prescriptions.
A major reason Arkansas is so successful is that we average 160 collection sites each time we hold a take-back event. The average in other states is 108 per event, and most of those states are larger than Arkansas.
Law enforcement agencies, the state Drug Czar, the Attorney General and the staffs of the two U.S. Attorneys in Arkansas help organize the take-back events.
Arkansas ranks fourth in the nation in the number of pounds of drugs collected per capita. Even though Arkansas is 32nd in population, it ranks 16th in the total weight of prescriptions collected.
Arkansas has not had an individual with Ebola virus. However, the state Health Department physicians, nurses and infection control nurses have been preparing since August in case there is a reported case of the Ebola virus in Arkansas.
Public health officials have been working with hospitals, clinics, churches, waste water management companies, emergency medical technicians, schools and business groups.
The goal is to quickly and accurately assess whether any individuals have been infected by the Ebola virus, and to have a plan in place for screening and treating any infected patients.
The Health Department considers that only people who have traveled to West Africa, or who have treated an Ebola patient, are at risk. At this time, traveling to Dallas is not enough to pose a risk, according to Health Department officials.