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Three law enforcement agencies in Pulaski County collected more than 880 pounds of prescription drugs Saturday as part of a national effort to dispose of unused, unwanted and expired medications.

Saturday was the 10th National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, which was started by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in 2010 and occurs twice a year. This year, the federal agency and local experts referenced the country's high rates of prescription drug abuse in encouraging people to clear out their medicine cabinets.

Many people did so Saturday, turning over prescription drugs to the Pulaski County sheriff's office and the Little Rock and North Little Rock police departments.

The Pulaski County sheriff's office collected the most, with 526.1 pounds, followed by North Little Rock police with 200 pounds and Little Rock with 161 pounds, according to spokesmen for the three agencies.

Those who missed Saturday's event or who live elsewhere in the state can still get rid of unwanted medications at permanent drop-off sites. At the website artakeback.org, people can search by ZIP code to find sites close to them.

In central Arkansas, the Pulaski County sheriff's office has a 24-hour prescription drop box at its station at 2900 S. Woodrow St. in Little Rock. Capt. Carl Minden, spokesman for the sheriff's office, said the agency has collected more than 5,000 pounds of prescription drugs in the drop box and during Take-Back Days since 2010.

North Little Rock police also have a permanent drop box at their headquarters at 200 W. Pershing Blvd. In the past six months, they have collected 400 pounds of prescription drugs, police spokesman Sgt. Brian Dedrick said.

Steve Varady, program analyst for the Office of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, part of the Arkansas Department of Human Services, pointed to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an argument for getting rid of prescription drugs in the home.

More than 16,000 people in the United States died from prescription opioid overdoses in 2013, according to the CDC. Since 1999, the number of deaths involving prescription opioids has quadrupled.

"This is one way people can actively get involved in prevention of drug abuse before it even starts," Varady said. "So often prescription drug abuse is viewed as safer, and it's sadly just not the case."

According to the DEA, studies have shown that abused prescription drugs often come from family, friends or their medicine cabinets.

"People don't want to waste things," Varady said. "That's why they keep them around."

By taking prescription drugs to a drop-off site people can get rid of the pills in an environmentally safe way, as opposed to flushing them down a toilet or throwing them away, Varady said. The drugs collected are taken to a licensed incinerator and destroyed.

Metro on 09/27/2015

Print Headline: Drug take-back day nets 880 pounds of medications

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