Mainers from Ashland to Wells will be able to drop off unwanted prescription drugs this week as part of a larger effort to curb opioid abuse across the country.

The National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, held in dozens of locations across the state, offers Mainers a safe way to dispose of expired or unused medication in hopes of curbing the potential for drug abuse. Click here for a complete list of participating departments.

The Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department and Bangor Police Department are hosting a two-day Drug Prescription Take Back and Shredding Day from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27 in the Airport Mall parking lot in Bangor, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

“It’s just a positive way for medications to get safely disposed,” Penobscot Sheriff Troy Morton said Wednesday.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has, for the last 14 years, helped organize National Prescription Drug Take Back Day in states across the country in an effort to curb prescription drug abuse. But Maine, seeing a greater need, offers the service more than once a year, Morton said. Drug overdoses killed an average of one person a day in the first two months of 2017, largely in line with the number killed in 2016.

Maine continues to rank first in the nation — and has since at least 2014 — for volume of medications collected per capita, Morton said.

In the spring, state law enforcement collected 27,140 pounds, or 13.5 tons of prescription medication, Morton said.

The “staggering” volume of pills returned across the state “brings to light a bigger problem about how [much] medication is put out into the community and the potentially impact it has on substance abuse problems we have,” he said.

Much of the opioid epidemic that began in the late 1990s in Maine started with prescription drug abuse, Morton said. A National Survey of Drug Use survey in 2014 showed that 75 percent of heroin users find the drug through initial prescription drug use.

Officers purposely don’t ask questions when pills are turned over for disposal, Morton said.

If someone can’t attend the take-back event, most Maine police departments, including Bangor, Brewer, Holden, Orono and Veazie, are able to discard unused prescription medicine year-round.

For the fourth year, law enforcement will also help to shred sensitive documents at the event. With the state’s aging population and the potential for scams, it seemed a necessary service to also offer, Morton said.

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