Local law enforcement officials want to know if you have unused, extra or expired prescription medications in your medicine cabinets. If you do, they want you this Saturday.
That's because authorities are holding a prescription drug take-back day with five locations for Carroll County residents to disposal of old or unwanted medications.
On Saturday, Sept. 29 from 10 a.m. to noon, drop-off locations will be open at the Green Forest Police Department, Carroll County Sheriff's Office, Eureka Springs Police Department, Grassy Knob Volunteer Fire Department and the sheriff substation on Holiday Island.
Carroll County health and law enforcement officials are worried about how easily accessible narcotics and other prescription medications are to young children and young adults, and anyone who may abuse prescriptions not intended for them, accidentally or otherwise.
"Kids tend to take pills that are unknown to them, and they are easily accessible in the medicine cabinets of their parents and grandparents," said Carroll County Sheriff Bob Grudek. "A lot of kids don't realize the dangers of the drugs because they are prescription -- they need to know that prescriptions are just as dangerous as illegal drugs."
In a 2011 survey, Arkansas Prevention Needs Assessment found that Arkansas sixth-graders were more likely to abuse prescription drugs more than any other substance except alcohol, tobacco and inhalants.
And nearly eight percent of Arkansas high school seniors reported non-medical or recreational use of prescription drugs, according to the APNA study.
The result of such abuse of prescription drugs has proven deadly across the country, statistics show. In 2007, approximately 27,000 unintentional drug overdoses occurred in the United States, which equates to one death every 19 minutes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
"We want to get the drugs off the street and out of the hands of children, and the drug take-back is a worthwhile program that will do so," said Mercy Berryville Vice President of Patient Services Michele Gann. "We want people to be aware that we are always willing to take the unused medications back and keep them out of the hands of the wrong people."
Carroll County has seen its own share of tragedy due to prescription drug abuse, misuse and accidental overdose, authorities told Carroll County News.
"There are roughly 18 prescription related deaths per year (here)," said Carroll County Coroner Larry Sanders. "Four to five deaths in the county from prescription medications are accidental.
"Some teenagers and adults intentionally overdose -- most are not accidental," said Sanders, adding that some accidental overdoses occur from impaired judgment by patients who are already taking medication and may unintentionally take too much or the wrong thing if it is left lying around.
Seven out of 10 drugs that caused overdose deaths in Arkansas from 2002-2007 were prescription-related -- and one was from an over-the-counter drug, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.
In an effort to halt the unneeded access to dangerous prescription drugs, the Carroll County Sheriff's Office has partnered with Mercy Berryville, the DEA, and the state of Arkansas for the take-back initiative. This is Carroll County's third year to participate.
"Mercy partnered with the sheriff's department after there was a push by the DEA to promote and educate people about prescription medications," Gann explained.
Through the last four events held by the state, more than 17.5 tons were collected in Arkansas, estimated at 48 million to 50 million pills, according to a press release issued by the state.
In the past three years Arkansas youth prescription abuse rates have dropped in 27 out of 30 measures conducted by the APNA's studies in 2011.
But just throwing out your prescriptions in the trash or down the commode is not recommended, for a number of reasons.
Safe disposal is vital, and the sheriff's office wants to create a secure and environmentally friendly alternative to dispose of prescription medications.
A program in previous years suggested that persons flush prescription medications down the toilet, but in a discovery by the Associated Press in 2008 they suggested that once the medications are flushed they seep into the water table and then into the drinking water supply.
"The only safe way of disposal is at the secure drop locations," said Grudek.
The sheriff's office and Mercy hospital are putting together an educational program for parents warning of the dangers of prescription medications. The program will be conducted at Mercy Hospital; dates are to be announced.
"Awareness will reduce the risk of kids involved in prescription drug abuse," said Grudek. "The best way to combat abuse of medications is through education for parents and their kids--we've got to get them to say 'No!'"