Drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of accidental deaths in the U.S., surpassing vehicle fatality accidents by nearly 18,000 deaths! With your assistance - WE are going to change this statistic!
Twice a year (through partnerships with Rotary Clubs, Prevention Resource Centers, the Department of Health and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency) law-enforcement agencies throughout Arkansas host Drug-Take-Back events (a.k.a. Operation Medicine Cabinet) at various locations in an effort to not only to get the public to dispose of unused or expired medications, but to educate as many people as possible about the dangers prescription medications can pose. With many law enforcement agencies, and other facilities, having 24-hour secure drop boxes, some collection sites are always available.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “the United States is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic.” More persons died from drug overdoses in the United States in 2014 than during any previous year on record. The CDC also states that since 2000, the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137%, including a 200% increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids (opioid pain relievers and heroin). Opioid deaths have spiked from below 5,000 in the year 2000 to nearly 30,000 in 2014. In 2014, opioids were involved in 28,647 deaths, or 61% of all drug overdose deaths; the rate of opioid overdoses has tripled since 2000.
Prescription opioids – oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl, and other pain relievers – also is a large contributor to other drugs. The CDC states that, “94% of respondents in a 2014 survey of people in treatment for opioid addiction said they chose to use heroin because prescription opioids were ‘far more expensive and harder to obtain’ and that “four in five new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers.” In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids, which is more than enough to give every American adult their own bottle of pills, according to the CDC. Drug overdose deaths involving heroin continued to climb sharply, with heroin overdoses more than tripling in 4 years.
Another reason to properly dispose of medications is for environmental safety. Medicines that are flushed or poured down the drain can end up polluting our waters, impacting aquatic species, and contaminating our food and water supplies. Most medicines are not removed by wastewater treatment plants or septic systems. Scientists have found medicines in surface, ground and marine waters as well as soils and sediments in the Pacific Northwest. Even at very low levels, medicines in the environment hurt aquatic life.
Medicines are a special type of hazardous chemical which are not safe in solid waste systems and landfills. Drugs can be very toxic for people and wildlife, even in low doses. Just as we do not put used motor oil or leftover paint thinner in the trash, we should not put these extremely potent pharmaceutical chemicals into unsecured curbside trash cans.
HISTORY OF OPERATION MEDICINE CABINET
The Operation Medicine Cabinet event started in Benton after Russell Goodwin, owner of a local monument company and youth baseball coach, told Benton Police Chief Kirk Lane that he was “tired of making headstones for children” he knew due to the abuse of prescription drugs. Benton officers gathered data that showed there was a problem with abuse and misuse of prescription drugs by youth, including information from the Saline County Coroner’s Office which showed that 30 people died in 2009 as a result of prescription drug abuse.
There was just 146 pounds of prescription medications collected at the first Operation Medicine Cabinet in Benton back in the spring of 2009, but the program and education to the public continued growth. State officials took notice and the program expanded. In 2010, a coalition led by State Drug Director Fran Flener, then Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and both Arkansas districts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office launched an ongoing educational program to encourage everyone to “Monitor, Secure and Dispose” of their prescription medications. The also launched the website www.artakeback.org.
On the heels of the success in Arkansas, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced a nationwide prescription drug take back campaign. In May 2016, the DEA announced that 893,498 pounds of prescription medications were collected in all 50 states, with 25,289 pounds collected from Arkansas.
42% - that is the percent of teenagers who have abused or misused a prescription drug obtained them from their parent’s medicine cabinet, and 64 percent of teenagers (age 12-17) that have abused prescription pain relievers say they got them from friends or relatives. About two-thirds of all prescription drugs (which also include stimulants such as Adderall and depressants like Ativan) illegally obtained are taken from people’s homes and not pharmacies or off the street.
“At the age of 18, my daughter knew four people that lost their lives due to the influence of prescription drugs,” said U.S. Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) “This is a serious problem that deserves more of our attention. Prescription drug abuse has become an epidemic in Arkansas and throughout our country."
“Since 1999, opioid overdose deaths have quadrupled. Nationwide 44 people die from prescription abuse or misuse every day," said U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-Ark.) "Arkansas Take Back is responsible for removing more than 72 tons of unneeded medication, estimated at 201 million pills from Arkansas homes. Help reduce the risk of developing addictions to prescription drugs by participating in Operation Medicine Cabinet.”
We encourage parents to talk to their children about the dangers of drug usage, because education is the key to helping us make a difference in our community. We can further reduce the lives this problem destroys by simply educating those around us and by taking time to secure and dispose of old medications.