Frye discusses drug take-back program at Berryville Rotary
With about 170 law enforcement and government agencies participating, Arkansas is leading the charge in the National Prescription Drug Take Back program.
Chief Deputy Maj. George Frye of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) discussed how the program works at the Berryville Rotary Club’s Tuesday meeting.
“I think most of us have seen on the news or recognized that prescription drug abuse is a major problem in our country and right here in our own community as well,” Frye said. “The opioid crisis is huge here in Arkansas.”
He said former President Barack Obama signed the Safe and Secure Drug Disposal Act of 2010, directing the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to begin a program to take back unused or unneeded prescription drugs.
“It got off to kind of a rocky start. I was familiar with it when I was working in Tulsa, Okla.,” Frye said. “Back then, we gathered up unused prescription drugs that were dropped off to us, and we had to come up with a solution for what to do with them. Many a time, I had to load up my patrol car and take them to an undisclosed location to have them incinerated.”
The program is running much more smoothly now, he said, and is managed by the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Nationwide they partner with local and state agencies,” Frye said. “All of the Arkansas State Police locations have a National Prescription Drug Take Back Day twice a year where we bring in unused prescription drugs. For us, the closest location is Arkansas State Police Troop L in Springdale.”
He continued, “They partner with the DEA and collect the drugs twice a year in April and October.”
In Carroll County, he said CCSO turns in an average of about 250 pounds of prescription drugs on each of the dates.
“You’ve all probably seen the U-Haul packing boxes that are about 2-by-2.5-foot and about that tall,” he said. “Picture one of those filled with pills. When they’re filled, they weigh about 25 pounds on average, and we deliver about 10 boxes over to Troop L every six months. That’s from our small county.”
Nationwide, Frye said the National Take Back Day in April collected just under one million pounds of prescription pills.
“Other than the most populous states like California and Texas, Arkansas has more participation from our law enforcement agencies and more collection sites,” he said. “We collect more prescription drugs than most states in the country.”
CCSO, Frye said, has two permanent collection boxes. He said one sits right in front of the main entrance at CCSO at 205 Hailey Road in Berryville. The other, he said, is at the Holiday Island Fire Department at 251 Holiday Island Drive.
“They are available 24/7, and we don’t inquire who’s bringing it,” he said. “All we ask is that there be no sharp objects, like syringes, and no liquids. People violate that sometimes anyway, so we have to be careful when we open the box.”
Frye continued, “in the old days, if you had leftover scripts, you flushed them down the toilet. We all know that’s a bad idea for obvious reasons. It pollutes our water supply.”
Prescription pill abuse is a major issue in the country, he said, because they are so easy to get.
“What we need to do is make sure we take advantage of these National Take Back Days in the spring and fall,” he said. “If you have any leftover scripts, you can bring them 24/7 and dump them in those collection boxes, no questions asked.”
On the National Take Back Days, Frye said he typically takes about 10 or so boxes to Troop L in Springdale, and DEA agents and the Arkansas National Guard help stack them into a box truck.
The collected pills are then taken to a site to be incinerated, he said.
“Try to picture one of these huge box trucks packed to the gills,” he said. “Imagine what kind of problem that would be if we left all of those pills in circulation. Thieves could break in and steal them, or our kids could innocently get into them. I want to encourage you to make use of our collection boxes and tell any of your friends and family members who are wondering what to do with their unused prescription drugs.”
Rotarian Carla Mann, director of the Carroll County Senior Activity and Wellness Center, said the Carroll County Hometown Health Coalition works to promote the National Prescription Drug Take Back Days and hopes to get collection boxes in Green Forest and Eureka Springs as well.
She said data from the Arkansas Prevention Needs Assessment (APNA) Survey is one of the driving forces behind the event.
“The survey has high school students talk about the first time they tried drugs and their first experiences with alcohol and cigarettes,” she said. “In our area, we have a high amount of kids who try prescription drugs, and they get them from relatives’ and friends’ medicine cabinets. It’s important to get prescription pills out of your home, especially if you’re not going to use them, so that they’re not accessible to children.”
Rotarian Peggy Lodewyks Haas asked if the prescription pills could be reused by free clinics under controlled circumstances.
“I’ve had that question myself, but some of these pills are just loose,” Frye said. “The pills often aren’t in containers, and that would never work. I know there are Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations that make what you’re suggesting difficult. I don’t know that we could get to a point where they could be recycled, as good an idea as that sounds.”
He said CCSO does not track what is dropped off in the collection boxes.
“Part of what makes this program successful is the anonymity,” Frye said. “People don’t have to worry about being identified when they bring stuff in.”
Rotarian Bob Moore, publisher of the Carroll County News, asked Frye if the medical marijuana cultivation facility approved for Carroll County, Osage Creek Cultivation, poses an additional burden to CCSO.
“We’ll have to wait to see how that fleshes out,” Frye said. “I honestly don’t know. There has been no discussion with us about it.”