Sister Patricia Pora of Portland carried two bags of discarded medications to the drop-off box set up by Maine Medical Center nurses at the Back Cove parking lot Saturday.

She said she had collected them from members of the Hispanic community she works with.

Lisa Razionale, a nurse at Maine Medical Center in Portland, receives a bag of prescription drugs Saturday at the Back Cove Trail parking lot during the drug take-back event. Police agencies held similar events at locations around Maine. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“Most are outdated over-the-counter,” Pora said. “They know from experience back in their home countries, which get sent a lot of expired drugs, that it is not good to put them in the trash.”

Pora and others across the state participated in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day in Maine, a biannual event in the spring and fall that started in 2010. The event is geared to allow people to drop off their unwanted drugs, which will be carted off to an incinerator. The event keeps the drugs from entering the watershed and out of the hands of little children.

“We don’t want them flushed into the water supply,” said Bridgette Dow, a nurse in the operating room of Maine Med’s Scarborough campus.

Rose Tanguay, a nurse manager at the poison control center on Washington Avenue in Portland, pointed out that the drugs look a lot like candy. She said young children manage to get into medications all the time, despite child-proof caps.


“Even 2-year-olds can get into them. It is a huge concern,” Tanguay said.

Tanguay said police stations  have drop-off boxes for those who couldn’t make the drop-off Saturday. And, she said, those who cannot make it to a police station are advised to crush the drugs and mix them with coffee grounds or kitty litter and place them in a sealed plastic bag in the trash. She said there is also information about safe drug disposal on the Federal Drug Administration website at

In the national take-back event last October, federal, state and local government groups collected 914,236 pounds of drugs at 5,800 locations across the country.

At Back Cove on Saturday, one woman dropped off a bag of medications in plastic bottles with identifying information printed on them. The nurses allayed her concerns about privacy, assuring her that the drugs would go straight to the incinerator.

“I don’t want anyone to see my cancer drugs,” she said.

Then she let out a whoop, and the nurses joined in, as she said, “Now that I am cancer-free.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.