Arkansas ranks 2nd in the United States for over-prescibing opioid medications

Arkansas is 2nd in the U.S. for over-prescribing opioid medications at an average of 114.6 opioid prescriptions per 100 people (the national average is 66.5 prescriptions per 100 people). Photo courtesy

Little Rock, ARK. (KATV) - The Arkansas Prescription Drug Take Back is today, Saturday April 28th.

According to Arkansas Take Back, the event is dedicated to the life of Tristan Thomas -- a Bentonville High School alum & University of Arkansas student who lost his life to an accidental opioid overdose. Nearly 200 law enforcement agencies participating with locations set up throughout the state. Visit to find your location.

Please remember that turning over expired and non-needed medications to participating locations means that you will be protecting the environment (NEVER FLUSH or throw meds into your trash as it will end up in the water supply), but most importantly, you'll be saving lives.

Arkansas is 2nd in the U.S. for over-prescribing opioid medications at an average of 114.6 opioid prescriptions per 100 people (the national average is 66.5 prescriptions per 100 people). Provisional counts based on death certificates filed through the end of 2017 indicate that 401 Arkansas residents died of a drug overdose in 2016, more than any other year on record. But together, we can #ReverseTheOpioidEpidemic.

The site says drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of accidental deaths in the U.S., surpassing vehicle fatality accidents by nearly 18,000 deaths.

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.

Arkansas Take Back also says 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.

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