Unused and expired medications will be collected Saturday at police stations, firehouses, town halls and selected pharmacies around Maine.

The free and confidential program is part of a nationwide effort to prevent the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs that are in medicine cabinets in homes.

It also is considered the safest way to dispose of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines, which can accumulate in waterways when flushed down toilets, the traditional disposal method in many homes and nursing facilities.

“Every box (of drugs) that we collect is … saving a life or saving the environment,” said Michael Wardrop, a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent in Portland who is coordinating Maine’s collection. The federal agency oversees the safe incineration of the drugs.

Proper disposal of unused prescription drugs is considered one of the simplest and most important steps people can take to fight abuse and addiction, he said.

The national take-back will run from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Nearly every police agency in Maine is sponsoring a collection site, either at the police station or another location.

There will be 167 collection sites statewide.

To find the site nearest you, go to www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback or call your local police department.

Mainers turned in nearly 20,000 pounds of unused medications in the past two collection events, more pounds per capita than the residents of any other state, Wardrop said.

He said he’s sure there are still a lot of pills and medications in people’s homes.

“Anything (collected) is better than nothing,” he said. “That means we’ve eliminated medications going into the wrong hands and going into our environment.”

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