Arkansas Answers the Call: National Drug Control Policy Requested Prescription Drug Return Increase

The Office of National Drug Control Policy as part of its National Drug Control Strategy, called for an increase of prescription drug return and disposal programs as a means to curbing prescription drug abuse. Arkansas answered with nearly 30,000 pounds of medications. 

The Arkansas Prescription Drug Take Back Day, held on Oct. 28, 2017, had 152 law enforcement agencies collecting prescription medications at 171 sites across the state. Together, they collected a total of 28,035 pounds or 14 tons of old or expired prescription drugs, making the 14th National Drug Take Back Day the most successful Take Back event to date for the state.

The total number of prescriptions collected national is estimated at 28.9 million. Arkansas ranks 11th nationally in weight collected and 5th in weight collected per capita.

“I am proud to see this record setting number for Arkansas that will have a lasting life-saving impact on our state physically as well as environmentally,” said Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane. “The hard work and partnerships that made this possible as well as the participation of Arkansans demonstrates that working together we can solve this issue.”

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson added, “The most important statistic in every year’s Take Back event is a number that we’ll never know – the number of tragedies we prevent and the lives we save by tossing out old prescription drugs at the collection sites. I applaud Director Lane for his leadership in making our state a safer place.”

Drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of unintentional injury deaths in the U.S., exceeding vehicle fatalities by 50 percent. More than 143 people in America die each day due to a drug overdose. In Arkansas, 1,067 people have died from a drug overdose in a 3-year span (319 in 2013, 356 in 2014, and 392 in 2015). Arkansas is also in the top 20 percent of states that prescribe the most painkillers per capita.

It is these facts that led to the death of Nicholas Kellar on April 14, 2017, a life cut too short by prescription drug abuse, and it is also a familiar story for too many families in the growing trend of opioid addiction leading to heroin addiction, that too often causes death. This year, the Arkansas Drug-Take-Back day was dedicated to the memory of Nicholas “Cheezy” Alexander Kellar who was born January 7, 1994 in Fort Gordon, Georgia. He was only 23 when he died of an accidental fentanyl overdose following a long, hard battle with addiction. Nicholas was the son of Rory and Suzanne Tipton.

Office of National Drug Control Policy request led to new Arkansas’ program

In early 2010, a coalition led by the State Drug Director, the Attorney General, both Arkansas Districts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and numerous federal, local, and state agencies, prevention professionals, and private organizations, launched an ongoing education program to encourage everyone to “Monitor, Secure, and Dispose” their prescription medications.

As part of the “Monitor, Secure, and Dispose” effort, the coalition organized Arkansas’s participation in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Take-Back Initiative, and take back events took place on September 25, 2010; April 30, 2011; October 29, 2011; April 28, 2012; September 29, 2012; April 27, 2013; October 26, 2013; April 26, 2014; and September 27, 2014. The DEA announced the discontinuation of the national initiative in September 2014, but an Arkansas Take Back event under the leadership of partners within the state was held on April 25, 2015. The DEA then reinstated the program nationally, and events since have been held on September 26, 2015; April 30, 2016; October 22, 2016; April 29, 2017; and October 28, 2017. DISCLAIMER**Collectively, there have been 15 total Arkansas prescription drug take back events: one local and 14 national events. Results from the State Take Back in Spring 2015 were rolled into the total results for National Take Back 10 held September 26, 2015.

 Due to the commitment, dedication, and effort of the Arkansas Law Enforcement Community, its partners, and the multi-agency coalition, and due to excellent participation by Arkansans in all areas of the state, the take back events have been successful above and beyond all expectations. Altogether, the 14 Prescription drug take back events have produced the return of almost 132 tons of unneeded medications, estimated at 404.4 million pills.



  • Including all 14 events:  Arkansas ranks 3rd nationally in pounds collected per capita with 0.0882 pounds per person, slightly behind Wisconsin (0.0900 pounds per person) and Maine (0.2234 pounds per person).Despite being just 33rd in population among all states, Arkansas ranks 13th in total weight collected, and 69 more law enforcement agencies participated in Arkansas than the national average.


Arkansas’s average number of collection sites for each event was 181. The national per-state average was 108 per-event.

  • * The four-state DEA region consisting of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi pooled a total weight of 398,701 pounds for all 14 Take Backs. Arkansas, despite being the least populated of the four:
  •           1. Accounts for 66% of the total weight, collecting 128,607 pounds more than the other three states combined;
  •           2. Averages more participating law enforcement agencies than the other three states combined; and,
    •     3. Accounts for 48% of the region’s total sites for Take Back 13.


  • For Take Back 14, only:  Arkansas moved up 4 places, ranking 11th nationally in weight collected.


* Arkansas continued to rank 5th in weight collected per person. Maine ranks #1, followed by Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Vermont, respectively.

* Arkansas moved up one place, ranking 10th in the number of registered collections sites and moved up 4 places, ranking 8th in the number of participating law enforcement agencies.

(Determined using 2016 census results)