New Arkansas campaign focuses on Rx drug abuse
March 13, 2010
LITTLE ROCK (AP) Jennifer Bryan, surrounded by dozens of Arkansas government officials, citizens and students, spoke of her son's accidental death.
She was helping state officials begin a campaign Friday to urge residents to keep track of what's in their medicine cabinets in an effort to combat prescription drug abuse, especially among young people.
"It's been 275 days since K.J., my son, lost his life to prescription drugs," the El Dorado resident told a Capitol news conference.
K.J. Bryan, who would have turned 21 last October, died after taking the antidepressant Prozac with methadone. He received the latter, a pain reliever, from a friend who had a prescription for it.
The "Monitor, Secure, Dispose" campaign asks people to keep track of how many pills they have, secure medications in a safe place, and safely dispose of unneeded and expired medications.
Arkansas is among the states with the highest rates of nonmedical use of pain relievers among 12- to 25-year-old users, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A 2008 state survey found 22 percent of Arkansas high school students said they had abused prescription drugs by the time they reached senior year.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said the state has warned teens about the dangers of underage drinking and illegal drug abuse, and now it's time to focus on pharmaceuticals.
"This is just as serious as anything we have ever faced in the war on drugs," McDaniel said.
McDaniel said the campaign will also include town hall meetings to educate parents, teachers and the rest of the public.
The Arkansas drug director's office launched the campaign.
"This is surely an issue that has been on everyone's agenda," said state drug director Fran Flener, "but there had been no unified effort."
The state of Arkansas spends about $846 million each year on substance abuse and addiction programs. This reflects 8.5 percent of the state's budget, according to a study released in 2005 by the Arkansas Office of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention.