Drug Take Back Day History

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), 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. About the same time, the Benton Police Department started a program called “Operation Medicine Cabinet” in the spring of 2010,  after Russell Goodwin, owner of a local monument company and youth baseball coach, told then Benton Police Chief Kirk Lane that he was “tired of making headstones for children” due to the abuse of prescription drugs. Benton officers gathered data that showed there was a problem with abuse and misuse of prescription drugs by youth, including information from the Saline County Coroner’s Office which showed that 30 people died in 2009 as a result of prescription drug abuse.

More than 146 pounds of prescription medications were collected at the first Operation Medicine Cabinet in Benton and the program and education to the public continued in growth. In 2010, a coalition led by then, State Drug Director Fran Flener, launched an on-going educational program to encourage everyone to “Monitor, Secure and Dispose” of their prescription medications. The also launched this website artakeback.org with an emphasis on educating and encouraging everyone to “Monitor, Secure, and Dispose” their prescription medications.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration launched the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on September 25, 2010 in response to an epidemic of controlled prescription drug (CPD) abuse in the United States and it is held semi-annually.  Arkansas supports this with core partners from the Arkansas Governor’s Office, Arkansas Attorney General’s office, Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Department of Human Services, Arkansas National Guard, Arkansas Rotary Clubs, Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy, Arkansas State Police, Office of Arkansas Drug Director along with more than 130 additional law enforcement and government agencies, numerous community organizations, businesses, media outlets, and public health providers. The Office of the Arkansas Drug Director works closely with the DEA in the coordination of this growing coalition, and in maintaining the Artakeback.org website.

One key to its success is the ability to have permanent collection boxes located at key locations throughout Arkansas communities. This allows the public to dispose of their unwanted medications throughout the year. Currently, Arkansas has more than 225 of permanent collection boxes, with at least one in every county in Arkansas.  Collectively, there have been 18 total Arkansas Drug Take Back Day events, and 17 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.


Of Prescription Drug Addictions Start in Teenage Years

Lives saved from the Arkansas Naloxone Project

National Comparison (all Drug Take Back Day events):

Arkansas ranks #3 nationally in pounds collected per capita with 0.173 pounds per person. Maine ranks #1 with 0.392 pounds per person.1

Arkansas is 34th in population and ranks #12 in total weight collected with 522,201 pounds (261 tons).1

The four-state DEA region consisting of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi has a total weight of 795,5556 pounds for all Drug Take Back Day events. Arkansas, despite being the least populated of the four, accounted for 66% of the total weight and averages more participating law enforcement agencies than the other three states combined.

Drug Take Back Day event #24 only (October 29, 2022):

Arkansas ranks #6 nationally in weight collected (Top 10: Wisconsin, Texas, Ohio, California, Florida, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Indiana, respectively)

Arkansas ranks #3 per capita (Top 10: Maine, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, Missouri, Alaska, Kansas, and Massachusetts, respectively)

Arkansas ranks #14 in the number of law enforcement agencies participation.

Arkansas ranks #13 in the number of collection sites (the DEA statistic doesn’t include the 270 permanent drop box locations where many Drug Take Back Day events were held.)

1 Determined using 2020 census estimates.  2 Determined using data supplied by the National DEA.

Weight Collected Per Law Enforcement Agency (Drug Take Back Day OCT 2022 only):

Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office ranks #1 with 4,617 pounds collected.

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office ranks #2 with 2,064 pounds collected.

Washington County Sheriff’s Office ranks #3 with 1,055 pounds collected.

Baxter County Sheriff’s Office ranks #4 with 1,000 pounds collected.

Jonesboro Police Department ranks #5 with 808 pounds collected.

Benton County Sheriff’s Office ranks #6 with 800 pounds collected.

Benton Police Department ranks #7 with 780 pounds collected.

Bi-State Drug Task Force (Miller County) ranks #8 with 776 pounds collected.

Grant County Sheriff’s Office ranks #9 with 705 pounds collected.

Bella Vista Police Department ranks #10 with 649 pounds collected.

42% → the percent of teenagers who have abused or misused a prescription drug & admitted to obtaining them from their home.

64% → of teenagers (age 12-17) who have abused prescription pain relievers say they got them from friends or relatives.

2/3 of all prescription drugs illegally obtained are taken from people’s homes → not from pharmacies or off the street.

“At the age of 18, my daughter knew 4 people who lost their lives due to the influence of prescription drugs,” U.S. Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) said. “This is a serious problem that deserves more of our attention. Prescription drug abuse has become an epidemic in Arkansas & throughout our country.”

“Since 1999, opioid overdose deaths have quadrupled,” U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-Ark.) said. “Arkansas Take Back is responsible for removing more than 72 tons of unneeded medication, estimated at 201 million pills from Arkansas homes. Help reduce the risk of developing addictions to prescription drugs by participating.”

Education is the key to helping us make a difference in our community. We can further reduce the lives this crisis destroys by simply educating those around us & by taking time to secure & dispose of old medications.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), 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. 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.

Arkansans Drop 27,000 Pounds of Medications In The Box On Drug Take Back Day

Despite the rain and competing with college football games, Arkansans loyally answered the call to “Drop It In The Box” with nearly 27,000 pounds (13.46 tons) of medications collected from Saturday’s 24th semi-annual Arkansas Drug Take Back Day.

“It’s a blessing that Arkansans are continuing to respond to this program,” said Arkansas Drug Director Boyce Hamlet. “The rain didn’t slow them down and it shows that Arkansans are dedicated to making their homes and communities safer. Their act of dropping off the medications at the 300 plus locations we had across the state on Saturday will in turn save numerous lives and it protects the environment.” READ MORE HERE

Opioid Prescriptions in Arkansas (2018)

Nearly 80% of heroin users reported misusing prescription opioids prior to heroin. In a 2014 survey by the Center94% of respondents in a 2014 CDC survey of people in treatment for opioid addiction said they chose to use heroin because prescription opioids were ‘far more expensive and harder to obtain.’”

Drug overdose deaths involving heroin continued to climb sharply, with heroin overdoses more than tripling in 4 years.

Another reason to properly dispose of medications is for environmental safety. Click here for more information.