Tuesday, June 22, 2010

TOP STORY>>Sheriff’s program to reduce drug use

Leader staff writer

Since 2007, research has shown that Arkansas teens rank No. 1 in the nation for abuse of prescription pain relievers.

Now, Lonoke County is joining other counties in central Arkansas that are trying to combat the problem by taking unused prescription medicines out of medicine cabinets.

This week, the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Department is collecting those drugs at various locations across the county in trade for $5 gift certificates from Walmart and one-year gift subscriptions to The Leader.

Dubbed Operation Pill Kill, the drug collection started Monday in Lonoke, where response was poor. Investigator Keith Eaton, who is in charge of the operation, said only one person turned in prescription drugs at the Lonoke Community Center. By 9:30

Tuesday morning, one person had turned in drugs, not all of them prescription, at the Carlisle Seniors Center.

Eaton will be at the England Fitness Center at 107 Valley Drive today, the Ward Municipal Complex on Hickory Street Thursday and the Cabot City Annex at 208 N. First St. on Friday.

“We’ve had a lot of burglaries in the county lately and in some, prescription drugs have been taken. We’re also having a big problem with kids taking medicine that’s not prescribed for them,” Eaton said.

“You’ve got kids who will take pills to make them high. Then they can’t sleep and they have to go to school the next day and they take a pill to make them sleep. It takes a toll on your heart,” he said.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, some of the most commonly abused drugs are narcotics such as Oxycontin, Vicodin, codeine and Percocet, sedatives such as Valium and Xanax and stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall.

Emergency room visits due to abuse of prescription pain relievers has doubled since 2004.

Eaton said he will gladly take any unused prescription, or even non-prescription, drug and dispose of them to keep them off the street but what he hopes to collect are the drugs like the pain killers that are most commonly abused.

To keep drugs out of children’s hands, the Arkansas Department of Health recommends taking these safeguards:

Mix expired or unused prescriptions with a material like coffee grounds or kitty litter before throwing them away, to deter youth from taking them from the trash (never flush them down the toilet—this pollutes the drinking water supply).

Monitor adolescents’ online activities—many websites don’t even require a prescription.

Talk to youth about following instructions when taking medicine, and remind them that it’s never okay to share medication or to take someone else’s medication.
Set the record straight—tell youth that prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as street drugs when used inappropriately.

Stress is often cited as a reason for teens to use drugs; talk with your teen about safe ways to reduce stress.