OLD TOWN, Maine — Flushing old, expired or unused prescription medicine down the toilet was once the method for disposing of unwanted pills, but there is a better way, says Sgt. Michael Hashey of the Old Town Police Department.
The local police department and others from across the state will be out April 30 collecting unused or unwanted prescription drugs — with no questions asked — as part of National Take-Back Day, an effort coordinated by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.
The goal of the collection is to prevent the diversion of prescription drugs, particularly painkillers and anti-anxiety medications that have high value on the street, and to prevent the owners of the drugs from becoming victims of theft or burglary.
“Prescription drug abuse is one of the leading problems in this area,” Hashey said. “Prescription drugs are often stolen and sold on the street. Every unused or unwanted prescription that is properly disposed of is one less opportunity for someone to abuse them.”
Maine’s problem with illegal prescription drugs is nothing new, and the rapid increases in the number of drug deaths and arrests related to prescription drug addiction over the past decade illustrate the problem, he said.
Sixty people died in drug-related deaths in Maine in 2000, but by 2009 that number had increased to 179, according to data collected by Marcella Sorg, a University of Maine forensic anthropologist and lead investigator in two major studies that looked at drug-related mortality patterns in Maine.
“More people die from accidental drug overdoses than in car accidents,” she has said. “The biggest game in town is prescription drugs.”
In addition to preventing the diversion of prescription drugs, the collections also stop people from flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash, which have been found to pose a potential safety and health hazard to the environment and wildlife.
A similar prescription drug disposal event was held in September 2010 with police departments statewide, including Old Town, with more than 120 drop-off locations. It collected nearly 4 tons of unused, unwanted or outdated over-the-counter medications and prescription pills.
“We collected approximately 70 pounds of prescription drugs last year,” Hashey said.
Across the nation, residents turned in 242,000 pounds or 121 tons of prescription drugs at nearly 4,100 sites operated by the DEA and more than 3,000 state and local law enforcement partners, according to a press release about the event.
Residents in the Old Town area can drop off unwanted medications at the Police Department between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. April 30.
In the region, police departments and the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office will collect in Bangor, Brewer, Hampden, Orono, the University of Maine and Veazie.
To find specific drop-off sites, visit the DEA website justice.gov/dea and click on the “Got Drugs?” link at the top of the page.