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Arkansas collects thousands of unused prescription drugs

November 26, 2018

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) — Statewide participation in the last semiannual Drug Take Back Day differed heavily across the Arkansas-Oklahoma border.

Drug Take Back Day, held by the Drug Enforcement Administration in April and October each year, aims to lead people across the country to take unused prescription drugs to their nearest drop-off sites in hopes of combating opioid abuse.

Arkansas during the last Drug Take Back Day on Oct. 27 was 13th in the nation with 26,529 pounds of prescription drugs collected while Oklahoma was 49th with 717 pounds collected, according to DEA records.

Arkansas and Oklahoma in 2017 were both near the top of the United States for statewide rates of painkiller prescriptions per 100 people, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People often misuse prescription opioids by taking those that are prescribed to others, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Drop boxes run by the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 27 netted 220 pounds of prescription drugs, according to sheriff’s Lt. Tony Sacco. Sebastian County in 2017 averaged 153.1 painkiller prescriptions per 100 people, according to CDC.

“We really try to put it out in the public that they can bring all of their unused drugs to us,” Sacco said.

The drop boxes run by the Sheriff’s Office are just a few of several run throughout Sebastian County, the Southwest Times Record reported. No drop sites are currently listed on the DEA’s list of public disposal locations, though they turn the drugs collected over to the DEA for disposal.

Sequoyah County, which according to CDC averaged 51.9 prescriptions per 100 people, also has no sites listed under the public disposal locations list. Sequoyah County law enforcement officials could not be reached in reference to participation in Drug Take Back Day.

LeFlore County according to CDC averaged 81.8 prescriptions per 100 people and had Choctaw Nation Indian Health in Poteau and The Choctaw Nation Health Care Center in Talihina listed as disposal locations. Though it is listed, Indian Health does not have a drop box, said pharmacist Stefanie Campbell. Health Care Center does, however.

“I know we did have participation last year,” said Health Care Center pharmacist Ross Green. “It was very recent this year, so I’m not sure.”

Campbell and Green declined to say why they believed drop-off numbers in Oklahoma were so low. Sacco said he believes participation in Drug Take Back Day has to do with advertising and communication.

“It’s just partnering with the community and letting people know that this service is available for them to dispose of their unused drugs or unwanted drugs properly,” he said.

Sacco said he hopes people will continue to bring their unused prescription drugs to law enforcement in Sebastian County.

“I don’t know of any law enforcement agency in this area that would not take them,” he said. “Everybody takes them, or else they will tell you where you can take them.”

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Information from: Southwest Times Record, http://www.swtimes.com/

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