Residents of Saline County dropped off more than 1,500 pounds of medications during the Saturday, April 29 Arkansas Drug Take Back Day, which was called Operation Medicine Cabinet in Benton. Since 2009, the start of Operation Medicine Cabinet, more than 5 tons of prescription medications have been donated to the Benton Police Department for environmentally safe disposal.
“This shows that residents here are passionate in reversing the opioid epidemic in our own communities and across the nation,” Benton Police Chief Kirk Lane said. “Statistics show that prescription drug abusers largely get them from home medicine cabinets. We are also very proud to see many parents bringing their children with them to show the importance of Operation Medicine Cabinet and the Arkansas Drug Take Back Day.”
There were 349 drug overdose deaths in Arkansas in 2014 and that number decreased to 287 drug overdose deaths in 2015, a reduction of 18 percent. In 2016 however, the number increased by 17 percent at 335 drug overdose deaths in Arkansas. Saline County had 13 drug overdose deaths in 2016. *(These charts were developed from autopsied individuals only. The data was generated from autopsy reports containing one of the following words: intox, overdose, toxicity)
More than 143 people in America die each day due to a drug overdose. The rate of overdose deaths involving opioids (heroin and prescription opioids – oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl, and other pain relievers) has increased by 200 percent since 2000.
On an average day in the U.S: more than 650,000 opioid prescriptions are dispensed; 3,900 people initiate nonmedical use of prescription opioids; 580 people initiate heroin use; and 78 people died from opioid-related overdose. A large portion of people who abuse prescription opioids report that they obtained them in the homes of loved ones, including 42 percent of teenagers obtaining prescription medicines from their parent’s medicine cabinet. Also, 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.
The April 29 Arkansas Drug Take Back Day and Operation Medicine Cabinet were both dedicated to the late William Christian Doerhoff and The William Christian Doerhoff Memorial Foundation. We encourage you to read more about Will Doerhoff and his parents dedication to a program called Speak Up-Speak Out at www.willswork.org.
On April 29 Saline County had drug-take-back collection sites at Walmart in Benton and Bryant, Harvest Foods in Salem and East End, and in Haskell. Together the agencies collected 1,504 pounds of prescription medications.
- Benton Police Department – 1,067 pounds
- Bryant Police Department – 300 pounds
- Haskell Police Department – 51 pounds
- Saline County Sheriff’s Office – 85.2 pounds
Saline County residents have continued to take part in the Operation Medicine Cabinet events, collecting a total of 15,130 pounds since 2009.
Benton Police Department Collection
OMC I: 146 pounds
OMC II: 540 pounds
OMC III: 790 pounds
OMC IV: 483 pounds
OMC V: 630 pounds
OMC VI: 718 pounds
OMC VII: 807 pounds
OMC VIII: 742 pounds
OMC IX: 250 pounds
OMC X: 1,600 pounds
OMC XI: 890 pounds
OMC XII: 1,246 pounds
OMC XIII: 1031 pounds
OMC XIV: 1,504 pounds
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.
Returning your unwanted medicines to Operation Medicine Cabinet is the safest and most environmentally protective way to dispose of unused medication. 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 unsecure curbside trash cans.
If you have prescription medications needing to be disposed of, drop them off in the Benton Police Department’s 24-7 drop box, located at 114 S. East St. For more information about Operation Medicine Cabinet and for a list of locations across the state where medicines can be dropped off, visit www.artakeback.org or call (501) 618-8693.