PORTLAND – Pauli Daniels had some drugs that were prescribed for her and that she no longer uses.

Daniels, who lives on the Eastern Promenade, didn’t want to flush them down the toilet into the city’s waterways or to let them get into the wrong hands.

“I don’t want them hanging around the house,” she said. “I have grandchildren.”

Daniels’ dilemma was solved on Saturday, when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration held its third National Prescription Drug Take Back Day since 2010.

At pharmacies, in parking lots and at police stations nationwide, unwanted drugs were discarded in drop boxes monitored by police.

Although flushing pills was once an accepted way to dispose of them, environmental concerns about the practice have arisen.

The main purpose of the DEA’s program, however, is to keep the pills away from people who might abuse them.

MaineToday Media recently published a six-part series about the widespread addiction to painkillers in the state.

Daniels brought a plastic bag of pills to the Rite Aid pharmacy at 290 Congress St., where Portland police Sgt. Charles Libby was stationed by a cardboard box in the parking lot.

In about three hours, he said, between 20 and 30 people had stopped by to drop off their drugs.

One person had a trash bag full, some had just a couple of bottles, and the rest came with “everything in between,” Libby said.

Another Rite Aid on Congress Street was collecting pills on Saturday, as was the University of New England College of Pharmacy on Stevens Avenue.

About a dozen pharmacy students volunteered to collect and count the pills.

The students looked at the prescriptions on the bottles and recorded how many pills patients were given and how many they took. They’ll enter the numbers into a national database for a study on prescription drug waste.

Alexandra Malinowski, a second-year pharmacy student, said the purpose of the study is to generate funding for more safe drug-disposal efforts.

The discarded pills had the pharmacy students working hard at lab benches, where they poured out the bottles and made notes about the medications.

“Clearly, there’s a lot of waste,” Malinowski said.

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

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