Drug-take-back events help reduce abuse risk

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published October 17, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated October 16, 2013 at 4:39 p.m.
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Hundreds of pounds of prescription drugs were collected in only one of the drug-take-back events held by the Benton Police Department so that local residents could take unused drugs out of their medicine cabinets and away from possible abuse or theft. Today, 4,588 pounds of old medicines have been removed from homes in Saline County in seven events. The eighth drug-take-back event will be held Oct. 26.

BENTON — In 2007, the Office of National Drug Control Policy reported that Arkansas had the worst teen prescription-drug-abuse problems in America. In 2010-2011, Arkansas ranked third highest in the U.S. for nonmedical abuse of prescription pain relievers among ages 12 through 17, and was ninth highest for abuse by youngsters younger than 12.

In 2010, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration joined with local authorities in a plan to get unused prescription drugs out of homes, reducing the temptation for abuse and the chance that drugs could be stolen.

The Benton Police Department and Chief Kirk Lane have become some of the leaders in these efforts.

“Quite frankly, the numbers we hear about the level of prescription-drug abuse in our state is scary to think about,” Lane said. “We want to provide some insight on how we all can help mitigate this problem.”

Since April 2010, Benton police have held special drug-take-back events known as Operation Medicine Cabinet.

“To date, we have taken back 4,588 pounds of old medicine off the streets of Saline County during the past seven take-back events,” Lane said. “More importantly, these events help the public become more aware of this problem, and as more people know, they take the time and effort to turn in their old drugs. We want to keep that flow coming.”

Lane has said that bottles of pills and other drugs, especially painkillers, should be kept as secure in the home as a loaded firearm.

“Over two-thirds of teens that have abused prescription medications will admit that they got them from the medicine cabinets in their homes or from the homes of someone like their grandparents,” Lane said. “”This is a real problem, especially since abuse of drugs found in the home is rapidly increasing in younger kids, even those under 12 years old.”

Lane also said that medications should not be left in a vehicle, if at all possible.

“If you have to have them there,” he said, “please store them out of view so it doesn’t entice prying eyes to break into the vehicle.”

As part of a national drug-take-back day, Benton residents and others in Saline County can hand over their unused drugs to police officers at two locations. One will be the parking lot of Ferguson’s Furniture on Military Road, said Lt. Kevin Russell of the Benton Police Department. A new location for the event will be the Benton Event Center at Hickory Square Shopping Center. The location will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Lane said.

If anyone is unable to come by one of the two drop-off locations, Lane reminds residents that a permanent drop location is in place at the front door of the Benton Police Department in the Benton Municipal Complex.

Many law-enforcement agencies in Arkansas and around the nation will take part in next week’s drug take-back event, organized by the DEA.

The complex, on the Interstate 30 access road, opened Oct. 1, and taking drugs to the drop location will give many in the community a chance to take their first up-close look at the new city facility.

“It is a way to safely dispose of all your old and unwanted drugs,” Lane said.

The old recommendation that residents flush their unwanted drugs down a toilet has been proven to be bad for the environment. Studies have found that flushed drugs can enter the water supply and be toxic for aquatic wildlife or negatively affect drinking water.

While the take-back efforts have been a success, the drug-abuse problem still remains.

There have been 11 incidents involving stolen prescription drugs in Benton recently, according to a report from the Police Department.

“This isn’t something new, but we wanted to call attention to this alarming fact,” Russell said. “A lot of these pills were stolen out of homes during the commission of a residential burglary. Just recently, there was a case in Saline County where a nursing-home worker was caught stealing medications from patients.”

Lane said residents can help make the police efforts a success when it comes to prescription drugs.

“The citizens can spread the word about the seriousness of prescription-drug abuse by talking with their neighbors and telling them about the take-back efforts.

For information about drug-take-back efforts in the Tri-Lakes region, contact a local police department or a county sheriff’s office.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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