Nancy Fitts didn’t know what to do with her unused medication.

Fitts, 83, who lives in Hallowell with her husband, Richard, 87, said that some of the prescriptions in her medicine cabinet had expired back in 1990.

“We’ve only lived here three years and didn’t know what to do with it,” Fitts said.

Hundreds of Mainers discarded their outdated or unwanted prescription medications Saturday as part of an effort coordinated by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.

“National Take-Back Day” was the first event of its kind and featured participation from more than 100 secure locations across Maine. The goal was to prevent the theft and misuse of prescriptions, particularly painkillers and anti-anxiety medications.

Fitts said she picked the closest location to her home to bring the drugs: the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office collection site at the Kennebec Valley YMCA in Manchester.

“I don’t like the thought of all these pills floating in the sewage system, and some of it is hefty stuff and shouldn’t be put in the trash,” she said.

Flushing drugs down the toilet could contaminate the water supply. And tossing them in the trash can make them easy to find for misuse.

Carol Doorenbos of Readfield, a local pharmacist, volunteered to help the sheriff’s department collect the prescription drugs at the YMCA on Saturday.

Doorenbos and Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Mike Pion were busy crossing out the names and addresses on the prescription bottles.

She said they have to do that at the pharmacy where she works so people can’t get names and addresses off bottles thrown in the dumpster.

“If they see it’s oxycodone and can get the name and address off the bottle, they know it could be in that household and that’s scary,” Doorenbos said. “There’s been a lot of break-ins. They have been looking for money, but now it’s drugs.”

Deputy Chief Troy Morton of the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department, who manned one of Bangor’s three collection areas, saw a high number of pill bottles that were nearly full, which he said was an indication of the national problem of doctors overprescribing medications.

“They (patients) take five and they don’t work and they are switched to something else,” Morton said. Meanwhile, that first prescription remains in the medicine cabinet unused.

When Morton first pulled into the parking lot of Cascade Park on Saturday morning, three cars were already waiting, and traffic remained steady throughout the day.

At the Ellsworth Police Department, Chief John Deleo said people began showing up just after 8 a.m., even though the event was scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“It was like a yard sale — people wanted to get there early,” he said.

The state also offers a statewide drug mail-back system that allows people to send unwanted medicines through the mail, at no cost to the sender, to a state DEA storage facility for disposal.

The federal DEA has plans to coordinate another National Take Back-Day next spring.

 

— The Bangor Daily News and the Kennebec Journal contributed to this report.