Maine again voluntarily gave back more prescription drugs per person than any other state during this year’s National Drug Takeback Initiative.
It also gave back more than any state in New England, with 14,140 pounds of medications collected during the October event. Residents of Massachusetts, which dwarfs Maine’s population by about five times, gave back about 12,500 pounds of prescription drugs.
Overall, Maine ranked sixth in the nation for total weight of drugs collected, according to tallies from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA has not yet broken down the numbers by county in Maine.
Last year Maine also gathered the most drugs per capita in the nation. The state’s success can be attributed to a huge public outreach effort asking people to clean their cupboards of old medications and turn them over to law enforcement agencies, according to Roy McKinney, director of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.
The five states that collected more drugs by total weight than Maine did so because they are more populated or they promoted the initiative heavily, he said.
“If you look at the other states, California has done a lot of work and you look at population. But Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania they have been very involved in raising the concern about flushing medication and it getting into our water systems,” McKinney said.
New York is the other state that surpassed Maine’s drug collection total.
Promotional efforts in Maine warning residents about the dangers of dumping prescription medicines down the drain and getting the chemicals into waterways is what has seemed to convince most people to hand over their old drugs, McKinney said.
While the take-back initiative only occurs once a year, Maine also has a Safe Medicine Disposal for ME program that allows residents to get rid of unused household medications year-round using a mail-back return envelope system. The envelopes can be found at various locations throughout the state, with sites listed at www.safemeddisposal.com.
McKinney said that many respondents of surveys included with the envelopes have indicated that they wanted to dispose of the drugs without hurting the environment.
The MDEA director said it’s important to have a system in place for Mainers to get rid of medications that are no longer needed rather than letting them accumulate in the cupboard or trying to save them for the future. Medicine should only be taken when advised by a doctor, he said.
He also pointed out that most people using drugs recreationally aren’t getting the drugs from strangers.
“The vast majority find easy access out of the family medicine chest, whether that’s their parents’ or grandparents’ or friends’.”
The next drug take-back day will be April 28, 2012, according to the DEA.