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'Out of the wrong hands' -- Maine police departments prepare for Drug Take Back Day

National Drug Take Back Day happens twice a year to help people get rid of medications. It's taking place at a number of locations nationwide on Saturday, April 24.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — The biannual National Drug Take Back Day is happening on Saturday, April 24. This event is dedicated to helping people get rid of any unused or expired medications the right way to help keep the community and environment safe. 

David Stailing, detective with the South Portland Police Department, says he has been taking part in these events for a few years. In that time, he said he has been impressed by how successful they have been. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., volunteers will meet people at the department's parking lot, as a drive-through, drop-off location for meds. People don't even have to get out of their cars—they can just throw meds in the bucket.

Stailing says his team will be accepting prescription and over-the-counter meds. People are welcome to leave them in plastic bags or plastic pill bottles, and volunteers will make sure those items are recycled. The meds will be sent to the Drug Enforcement Agency to dispose of them properly. Stailing says during the last Drug Take Back Day in October, the South Portland Police Department collected about 955 pounds of drugs. 

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In Bangor, collection starts Friday, April 23, for a two-day event. Sergeant Wade Betters with the Bangor Police Department says people can drop off meds at the Airport Mall parking lot off of Union Street from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. There will also be a shredder onsite until 1 p.m. on Friday to help people get rid of sensitive documents. These events are anonymous, free, and don't require I.D.s. 

The Drug Enforcement Administration Diversion Control Division says during the last National Drug Take Back Day in October, 119 law enforcement departments in our state took part, with 144 collection sites. In Maine, officials collected 40,148 pounds of drugs, with a total of 985,392 pounds nationwide.

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Officials say this event is a way to help protect our environment by encouraging people not to flush meds down the toilet or throw them in the trash. It's also a way to address the drug problem in Maine, especially during a year when so many people have been stuck at home. 

"People are cooped up in their houses. Whether it's kids, or accidental overdosing on meds -- (drugs are) laying around because nobody's been out and about. Everybody's been cooped up inside," Stailing said.

"It's a good way to keep those highly sought-after medications out of the wrong hands," Betters noted. "Keep in mind, it might not be a burglar or someone coming in that you don't know. Having those medications around your home could go to a family member, or a family member's friend who might be there for a visit."

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Both the Bangor and South Portland police departments have drug drop-boxes in their lobbies, available to community members 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

To find a Take Back Day location near you, click here and enter your zip code.

This story aired on Saturday, April 25th, 2021.