Weekly Columns

Earlier this year, Arkansas Health Department Director Nate Smith gave an alarming presentation on opioid use in the Natural State to the Joint Interim Committee on Public Health at the State Capitol. The presentation, based off of last year’s data, showed that large amounts of opioids are being sold in Arkansas. “In 2016, enough pills were dispensed for every man, woman and child to take 80 pills each during the year,” Smith told the committee. 

The unfortunate, but unsurprising, direct result of this usage is a dramatic spike in the state’s overdose rate. It increased from 5.1 percent per 100,000 in 2000 to 13.4 percent per 100,000 in 2016. Since 2013, 1,067 people have died in Arkansas from a drug overdose. 

Everyone has a role to play in our effort to turn the tide on this negative trend. Along with ensuring that the programs authorized by the landmark Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act receive funding, the Senate has worked to pass legislation that aims to provide medical professionals with the ability to seek treatment therapies that do not threaten the recovery process for those who have struggled with opioid addiction.

This is important for Arkansas because our state is in the top twenty percent of states that prescribe the most painkillers per capita. This bill would give doctors the ability to decrease those numbers.

You don’t have to be a lawmaker or a doctor to help, though. One easy step that can go a long way is if each of us commits to safely disposing the expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs in our homes.

About one-third of medicines sold go unused. Too often, these dangerous narcotics remain unsecured where children, teens or visitors may have access or get improperly disposed of in toilets, sinks or trash cans. Proper disposal of unused prescription drugs can help ensure that they do not fall into the wrong hands. 

On October 28, more than one hundred collection sites across Arkansas will take old and unneeded prescription drugs off your hands and responsibly dispose them. This is part of a nationwide initiative, “National Drug Take-Back Day,” to return and dispose of prescription drugs and curb their abuse. To date, these events across the country have resulted in the removal of over 4.86 million pounds of prescription medications from circulation.

The following items are returnable: prescription medicines; over the counter medicines; vitamins; pet medicines; medicated ointments and lotions; inhalers; liquid medicines in glass or leak-proof containers (up to 12 ounces); and medicine samples. Visit http://www.artakeback.org to find the drug take-back site nearest you and bring your unneeded medicines there on October 28th

Along with Arkansas Take-Back, other efforts are underway across the state to help our communities combat this epidemic. One such effort—a partnership between the Little Rock office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Governor’s office and others—seeks to raise awareness among young Arkansans of the dangers of opioid abuse. 

The coalition is working together to coordinate a statewide same day viewing of “Chasing the Dragon”—a documentary produced by the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration—for students at participating high schools later this month.

From Washington to your community, Americans are united in the effort to curb opioid abuse. Together, we can keep our communities safe and save lives.