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Police: Abuse of pain pills not as bad here

Police: Abuse of pain pills not as bad here

Authorities say main problem is methamphetamine

January 14th, 2018 by Lori Dunn in Texarkana News

A reporter holds up an example of the amount of fentanyl that can be deadly after a news conference about deaths from fentanyl exposure, at DEA Headquarters in Arlington Va., Tuesday, June 6, 2017.

Photo by Associated Press

Police in Texarkana have seen an increase in illegal opioid use over the last few years but say it's nothing like the epidemic other parts of the country have suffered.

"It's not been the explosion here that places like West Virginia have seen. That's when there is a real danger of seeing heroin and fentanyl on the streets," said Sgt. Scott Megason, a narcotics investigator with Texarkana, Ark., Police Department.

Megason said police have seen an increase in forgery cases with prescriptions being altered, along with a rise in prescription-pill diversion that includes opiates and drugs like Xanax.

"It's one of those things we are more aware of, and we are working with pharmacies and businesses, and it makes it a lot easier when we can communicate. There is also a prescription database that law enforcement has access to," Megason said.

Drugs are often the driving force behind other crimes, such as theft, burglaries, family assaults and domestic violence.

"The drug trade affects every crime," said Lt. Keith Davis of Texarkana, Texas, Police Department's special investigations unit.

He said investigators have seen an increase in prescription pills over about the last five years. It started with hydrocodone, and then they started seeing more Oxycontin.

The biggest problem for this area, when it comes to illegal drugs, is methamphetamine.

"All drugs are here, just not in great quantity. Our main problem is still meth," Davis said.

A few years ago, local investigators would see numerous homemade meth labs in motel rooms or trunks of cars. They don't see that as much now, but the meth is still here.

"It's made at super labs in Mexico and comes across the border. It's very pure," Davis said.

"It's all on an uptick. We try to stay on top of it and not let it get to the level it has gotten in some places," he said.

Megason said he has worked a lot with local pharmacists and sees more of them taking an active role in communicating with police.

"Sharing information has been effective," he said.

Another tool that can be used to help victims of the opioid epidemic is a drug such as Narcan or naloxone. These are medicines similar to a nasal spray that are used to help prevent overdose deaths by reaching the opiate receptor inside the brain. The drug has no negative side effects, so it can be administered to anyone with no consequences.

Arkansas State Police has received a grant to provide naloxone and training to selected law enforcement agencies throughout Arkansas. The grant was made possible through Blue Cross Blue Shield's Blue and You Foundation. They are partnering with the Criminal Justice Institute on the project.

In August, ASP troopers began carrying the medicine in case they respond to an overdose.

Because of the department's willingness to have a naloxone program, Texarkana, Ark., Police Department will receive 100 of the kits and training on how to apply the medicine. The department will work in conjunction with Dr. Matt Young, who will be the administering physician.

Local police are also hoping that getting old prescription medicines out of homes will help curtail abuse.

TAPD collected 232 pounds of prescription medication during the fall National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. A total of 28,035 pounds were collected across the state of Arkansas.

"We have done this for several years and collected a huge amount of medicine," Megason said. "It's the safest thing to do with it. The National Guard picks it up, transports it to an undisclosed incinerator and burns it."

Another drug take back day will be held in April.

A drop-off box operated by the Bi-State Narcotics Task Force is available every day outside Miller County Sheriff's Office. Authorities plan to add another drop-off box behind the Bi-State Justice Building this year.

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