CCSO continues drug takeback program -- for now

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Though the Drug Enforcement Agency halted the national drug takeback program last September, state officials and the Carroll County Sheriff's Office said they plan to continue the program, at least for now.

The DEA held its last drug take-back day last September, after it expanded its rules to allow the public to dispose controlled substances at registered pharmacies, mail-back programs, long-term care facilities and at drop boxes like the one at CCSO.

DEA officials worked to get more than 150 prescription drop boxes placed at law enforcement agencies statewide, Steve Varady, Arkansas' interim drug director, said. The amended ruling allows law enforcement agencies to have drop boxes for scheduled narcotics without the DEA's oversight. Varady said that as of yet, no pharmacies in Arkansas have modified their licenses so they can collect the drugs.

Previously, DEA worked closely with law enforcement to ensure the safe collection and disposal of scheduled narcotics, but now registered collectors, including law enforcement agencies, will be responsible for disposing the drugs.

"It's been very successful in terms of the weight collected," Varady said, noting that Arkansas was fourth per capita in the U.S. in the amount of weight collected. Arkansas collected more than 19.5 tons of controlled drugs during the last year of its nine-year statewide effort, according to a state drug takeback fact sheet. No Carroll County numbers were available.

But Carroll County Sheriff Randy Mayfield said that because the program has been so successful, he plans on keeping the drop box that Grudek installed at the sheriff's office in 2012 and will track the amount of drugs CCSO collects. Doing so could help the CCSO and other law enforcement agencies better gauge the success of the program and seek funding from state and federal agencies, if needed.

"There's a lot of interest in continuing and we would like to," Varady said. "But, we would have to have statewide collaboration and some logistics would need to be worked out. We are planning another coalition meeting to address that as well."

Varady said the program helps reduce teen prescription drug abuse, which he said has decreased significantly in Arkansas over the last five years. But, those rates vary according to who is doing the counting. Though it is difficult to directly tie the success rates of the drug take-back program to a drop in teen prescription drug abuse, one thing is certain: Arkansas has one of the worst teen prescription pain reliever abuse problems in the U.S.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy's Teens and Prescription Drugs report. Arkansas has consistently ranked among the 10 states with the highest rate of non-medical use of pain relievers by 12 to 20-year-old individuals since state estimates of this measure first began in 2002.

Mayfield and Varady say that's reason enough to continue the grassroots program. Varady said the program also has environmental advantages because as soon as the drugs are collected, they are brought to incinerators in neighboring states and destroyed at no charge, instead of being flushed down the toilet and into waterways.

"Another benefit of the take-back program is the disposal method," Varady said. "We have a number of partners like Covanta in Tulsa."

Varady said that although the state does not have an advertising budget for the program, he anticipates funding will come through soon.

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