Saturday, April 22 was the spring date for the semi-annual National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.
Agent Terri Rogers and Officer Allyson Carter of Arkansas Department of Community Corrections were among those individuals that spent several hours of their Saturday morning at drug-take back locations in Ashley County.
Rogers and Carter spent their day outside of Gammel’s Pharmacy, which was the Crossett location for the take back.
Officer Nicole Carter was stationed in front of Hamburg Police Department, and she was one of several participants that greeted the individuals who brought their unwanted or unused medications to that location for safe disposal during the event.
Rogers, Carter, and Carter have each been in the field of law enforcement for over a decade. All three of the women take pride in the work they do, and they recognized the Drug Take Back Day event as an important aspect of helping to keep prescription drugs from ending up in the wrong hands.
Officers from any law enforcement agency are required to be present at the events to ensure the safety of those participating and to keep the chain of custody intact once the medication has been placed in the event’s specified collection box.
Drug-Free Ashley County (D-FAC) Coalition had members present at both locations as well.
Cathie Hillier and husband Harry joined Elizabeth White at the Crossett location.
Mary Vaughn, Daniel Shelton Jr., and Rev. Ephraim Johnson stayed at the Hamburg location for the event.
National Drug Take Back Day began in 2010 as a response to the growing problem of prescription drug abuse.
Eric Shoffner, pharmacist at Gammel’s Pharmacy in Crossett said, “The scary part is that 60 percent of drug use starts in our own homes, with individuals getting it from family and friends.”
Shoffner continued, “That is a huge number…that’s why we want (old prescription drugs) removed from homes, because of the potential for abuse.”
Shoffner said, “Let’s stop what goes wrong ahead of time,” by removing unused prescriptions from homes where they could be accessed by individuals that they are not prescribed to.
By bringing their unwanted prescription drugs to take back events such as this one, Shoffner said, the consumers are not only preventing the possibility that their prescription drugs could be stolen and distributed by criminals, they are also removing the chance that someone besides them might find and take the medications and experience unintended consequences, such as an overdose.
Shoffner explained that once a consumer has taken possession of their own prescription medications, only law enforcement officers are legally allowed to handle the medications past that point.
This is another reason why law enforcement officers take part in the event.
Volunteers and officers said that each of the locations in Ashley County had participants this year that were hesitant to bring their medications to the box, perhaps due to the presence of law enforcement.
Shoffner said the pharmacy staff even had some medications meant for the Crossett take back box handed to them through their drive-through window.
Officer Nicole Carter said that some individuals at her location at Hamburg Police Department seemed to be wary of the police presence as well, but that most understood that the officers were at the events for safety’s sake.
Officer Carter said Hamburg Police Department has a permanent take back box just inside the doors of their building that can be used year-round to dispose of unwanted medications.
Shoffner said last year, the state of Arkansas ended up with over 20,000 pounds of pills collected at various sites across the state.
Shoffner said Arkansas State Police is in charge of each collection site.
Once the pills are collected and weighed they are turned over to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for proper disposal.
The medications are then transported to a facility for incineration; the pick up and transport of the medications is coordinated by the DEA and National Guard to prevent the thousands of pounds of drugs from ending up in the wrong hands.
Shoffner said the event is just one of the ways to inform the members of the community of the importance of disposing of their unwanted medications properly, including how doing so can prevent the misuse and abuse of those drugs.