Arkansas's Drug Czar, the state Attorney General and others are partnering with law enforcement agencies around the state for a Prescription Drug Take Back Event Saturday, taking place at 150 locations. The event is an effort to curb prescription drug abuse in the state, says Fran Flener, State Drug Director.
Flener says in 2008, Arkansas was ranked number one in the nation in prescription sedative abuse among teenagers, according to Office of National Drug Control Policy. That ranking prodded her office to earnestly analyze the problem of prescription drug abuse in the state.
“So we came up with our campaign which is called Monitor, Secure and Dispose. We have now some 300 partners throughout the state. And our goals [at the time] were to provide a safe and effective way where people could get rid of any prescriptions they might have. And then we wanted to educate people to the problem,” she says.
Flener says her department started a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program last March to prevent people from “doctor shopping,” where people go to different doctors seeking prescriptions for “controlled substances.”
The program was established by the Arkansas Legislature in 2011 as Act 304.
“[Act 304] requires that each dispenser shall submit, by electronic means, information regarding each prescription dispensed for a controlled substance. Each time a controlled substance is dispensed to an individual, the dispenser shall submit the information required by Arkansas law to the central repository weekly for the previous week, Sunday through Saturday,” says a description on the program’s website.
Flener says along with the monitoring program the Take Back events have been very successful.
“And it’s easy to participate, for people to clean out their medicine cabinets and have those medications that they no longer need and no longer are taking, just get rid of them. Because we find that our kids report to us that their number one place for attaining pills to abuse is from their own medicine cabinet,” she says.
After six previous Take Back events, Flener says the state crime lab estimates over 90 million pills have been collected. Flener also notes that surveys have shown a slight reduction in prescription drug abuse among teens since those efforts were put in place.
The Arkansas Prevention Needs Assessment Survey, an annual survey taken in Arkansas schools, shows that in 2012, 15.7 percent of all 12th graders report having abused prescription drugs in their lifetime, down from 21.7 percent in 2009.
Still, Flener notes that prescription drug abuse remains a big problem for young adults ages 18 to 25.
To find a Take Back location, visit this website.