JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -- "I would just about call this an epidemic," said Craighead County Sheriff, Jack McCann.
McCann says the number of Arkansas' youth abusing prescription pills is rising. A trend experts say is happening county, state, and nationwide.
"Kids especially don't realize how dangerous these pills are," said McCann.
A new program launched by the state of Arkansas has a goal of raising awareness of the dangers and educating people about how to keep prescription pills out of the wrong hands.
"We are directing this campaign towards adults," said Fran Flener.
Fran Flener is Arkansas' drug director.
She says she hopes this campaign encourages adults to monitor how many and the types of prescription pills they may have, secure them, and dispose of them properly.
"We want people to become mindful of the situation and take care of this ourselves," said Flener.
"We have to try to prevent and educate young people especially about the risks associated with addiction," said Skip Mooney, Jr.
Mooney started a grass roots organization in Jonesboro called Out of The Dark to do just that--getting into schools and out in the community. Mooney also helped in the planning of this statewide launch.
"People need this kind of information. Yes, I think it's going to be a very successful prevention program. It's not going to get rid of all the pills out there, but it's going to at least help people in their own homes," said Mooney.
Reports say more than half of teens nationwide say it's easy to get prescription drugs directly from their parent's medicine cabinet. Sheriff Jack McCann says he hopes this program will change that.
"If the kids can't get them, they can't take them. That's the whole idea behind this program and several other programs," said McCann.
25 percent of Craighead County 12th graders report abusing prescription drugs. That statistic is in the new 2009 Arkansas Prevention Needs Assessment Survey.
Experts say parents or guardians are the number one influence in a teens life, so educating parents will hopefully lead to the education of their children.