TRUMANN, AR (KAIT) - According to CNN, one person dies every 19 minutes from a prescription drug overdose in the U.S.
To combat this misuse and abuse, the Food and Drug Administration is proposing new restrictions that would tighten regulations for some of the most commonly prescribed painkillers on the market.
The FDA's latest proposal would specifically affect hydrocodone combination pills, like Vicodin.
Patients would need a written prescription from a doctor to access these drugs, instead of a prescription submitted by phone.
Refills would also be prohibited.
If passed, the Trumann Police Department said it could help clean up the prescription drug issue in the city and its surroundings.
"It's a pretty bad epidemic," police chief Chad Henson said.
About 80 percent of the arrests the department makes involve prescription drug abuse.
"We see a lot of overdoses with these pills. And, for the most part, a lot of these overdoses, that person is not even prescribed that pill. So they gotta get it from some where," Henson said.
Police said criminals have that down to a science.
"They're buying, they're finding them. They know where grandma, their mom, or their dad has these pills. Taking their pills and claiming them to be lost, claiming them to be stolen. And we're finding out that they weren't stolen or lost, they're selling them on the black market," Henson said.
These criminals are making a huge profit, too, about $80 to $100 per pill.
"If we're on a call about a gun, we'll also find pills. Several traffic stops that lead to arrest, we'll find pills in pill bottles that's not belonging to that person," Henson said. "It's harder to catch and it's just so addictive to these people that are using it."
Henson said the department arrests people of all ages in response to prescription drug abuse.
"Men in Trumann that are 98 years old selling these pills to juveniles," Henson said.
Henson said these drugs run rampant not only in Trumann, but also most cities in northeast Arkansas.
"Several years ago, it was crack cocaine. Then we started seeing a lot of the methamphetamine. We had methamphetamine labs and it was just a big mess. This is equal, if not more, than those problems we have now," Henson said.
"In northeast Arkansas, we fill a lot of these prescriptions," Trumann pharmacist Chris Haynes said.
Haynes said this new FDA proposal would help Trumann immensely.
Henson agreed, but said it needs to be an official regulation sooner rather than later.
"When that comes into effect, we're still gonna be two to three years behind the curve," Henson said. "I just wish they'd hurry up and pick up the speed."
Until the FDA proposal becomes official, Henson reminds everyone in Region 8 to bring any unused prescription pills to a local drop box.
The Trumann Police Department has one in its office open 24/7.
The department is also currently working with Nova Southeastern University in Florida to study prescription pill usage and related arrests in Poinsett County.
Henson said the department will use this information to try to catch even more of these prescription drug abusers.