Later this month, law-enforcement agencies across Arkansas will participate in our third Drug Take Back Initiative, working to reduce drug abuse, avoid accidental poisonings and improve water quality. Unused or expired medications will be collected statewide on October 29 as part of a national effort to remove unwanted or leftover prescription drugs from people's homes.
The initiative offers consumers a safe option for disposing of any unwanted drugs in their medicine cabinets. Too many people get rid of old medications by flushing them or throwing them out with the garbage. Proper disposal of prescription drugs reduces the chance of accidental ingestion by young children or the contamination of our water supply. Some of the active chemicals found in drugs cannot be removed by wastewater-treatment facilities. Chemicals that remain in the water can harm fish and other wildlife, and can even be found in the drinking-water supply.
Next to methamphetamines, prescription-drug abuse is the biggest drug threat in Arkansas. In fact, the number of Arkansans seeking treatment for prescription-opiate abuse rose 525 percent from 1998 to 2008. Nationwide, the number of deaths from prescription-drug overdoses has almost quadrupled in less than a decade.
A lifelong addiction to prescription drugs can begin with just one pill, and sadly, it is our young people who often fall victim. Each day, an estimated 2,500 American teenagers abuse prescription drugs for the first time. As recently as 2007, Arkansas was reported to have the nation's highest rate of prescription painkiller abuse among teens.
One of the main reasons young people abuse prescription drugs is because it is so easy to get their hands on them. Studies show that the majority of abused drugs are taken from the medicine cabinets of friends or relatives. By taking your unused or unwanted prescription drugs to one of dozens of drop-off sites statewide on October 29 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., you help reduce the opportunities and temptations for abuse.
We've worked to provide these collections every six months, and last April, Arkansans turned in 7,423 pounds of medication. That's an estimated 10.3 million pills no longer sitting in medicine cabinets, pills that will not end up in landfills or water systems or in the wrong hands.
We want to collect even more medication this time around, but we need your help. If you take your medication to a collection site, you can drop it off at no cost and do so anonymously. If October 29 does not work with your schedule, more than 20 permanent drop boxes are located throughout Arkansas. A list of Take Back locations can be found at ARTakeBack.org. With your help, we can responsibly dispose of unwanted prescription drugs in a way that protects our environment and our children. As is often the case, the effort to make Arkansas a better place begins at home.