Nation's 'drug czar' to address Arkansas group

Every day, 2,200 teenagers use a prescription drug to get high for the first time, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. They're getting these drugs at home, as easily as opening a cupboard, drawer or medicine cabinet.

In 2007, Arkansas was reported to have the worst teen prescription pain reliever abuse problem in the entire United States. The nation's drug czar is to speak at an Arkansas event devoted to examining the steep increase in abuse of prescription drugs. R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, is to make a lunchtime speech Thursday at the Statehouse Convention Center in downtown Little Rock.

Earlier this year, Kerlikowske announced a policy shift in addressing the nation's drug abuse problem. Instead of focusing on law enforcement, the office is emphasizing prevention, education and treatment.

Kerlikowske has asked for a $1.4 billion increase in his 2014 budget for treatment of addiction.

Other speakers at the Arkansas Prescription Drug Abuse Summit include physicians, drug enforcement officials and others.

Teens abuse prescription drugs because they can get to them easily without paying for them. In fact, according to NSDUH, 65 percent of kids ages 12-17 who have abused pain relievers say they got them from their friends or family. Usually the friend or family member doesn't even know. Authorities encourage people protect your prescriptions the same way you would protect jewelry or cash.

Safely disposing of expired or unused prescription medications is vital to help protect your teens. Here are ways to help lower the risk of your teens or their friends abusing your medications:

1) When your teens are not at home, go through your medications and throw away expired or unused prescription drugs.

2) The best way to dispose of your medications is through take-back events and prescription return drop boxes sponsored by local law enforcement agencies.

3) Teenagers will get prescription drugs from the trash. If take-back events or drop boxes are not available, mix the medication with a substance such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter. Put the mixture into an empty can or bag, and throw it away.

4) Do not flush medicine down the drain or toilet.

5) Remove any personal information from prescription bottles or pill packages before you throw them away. This will prevent refills and protect your family's privacy.