Opioid Epidemic: State Of Drugs In Benton County

BENTON COUNTY (KFSM) -- President Trump declared opioids a public health emergency, Thursday (Oct. 26), freeing federal funding to help combat the increasing problem.

Benton County also ranks well ahead the national average for the prescription of opioids, but this is not just a problem for adults. Arkansas ranks first in the nation for ages 12 to 17 in misuse of painkillers, according to the the Arkansas Attorney General's Office.

To combat this growing problem among teens, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge began the "Prescription for Life" campaign. This initiative is a half-hour digital course, which consists of self-guided animations and video, that gives students an updated and personalized look at the dangers of opioids.

"Prescription For Life" has been launched at six high schools, including Southside High School in Fort Smith and Bentonville West High School.

"It's important for people just to have knowledge, not only for the kids but for the parents as well to be able to talk to their kids about what they heard and kind of talk through with them about how to make the right choices," said a Benton County Sheriff's Office narcotics sergeant, who wants to remain anonymous.

The sergeant said the best way to avoid kids getting hooked on pills is to talk with them about what these drugs can do.

"Please, just think about what you're doing before you do it," he said. "You don't want to mess up the rest of your life, and by taking that one pill, it can start you down a path that you don't want to be on."

The sergeant said getting hooked on pills is much easier than people may think. What may seem like harmless medication, can take control of your life if not used as prescribed. The destruction that comes with opioid abuse knows no gender, race, income level or education becoming the leading cause of death of Americans under the age of 50.

The Centers for Disease Control show that 392 Arkansans died from a drug overdose in 2015, the latest numbers available. From 2013 to 2015, drug overdoses killed nearly 100 people in Benton County.

"Right now, it's been basically pills up here, but we are starting to see the heroin move in," the sergeant said. "We're starting to see those kind of drugs. It's going to be a big issue."

The sergeant said the time to take control is now. If you or someone you know is suffering from drug addiction, the Arkansas Crisis Hotline can provide help: 1-888-CRISIS2 (274-7472).