Prescription drug abuse is on the rise across the nation, and Searsport Police Chief Dick LaHaye said Midcoast Maine is not immune to the problem, or to the crimes that come with it.

That is one of the many reasons that police departments across the country will be collecting unwanted, expired or unused prescription drugs this weekend.

The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency will coordinate with local law enforcement agencies across the state Saturday, Sept. 25, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to allow the public to safely dispose of unused prescription drugs. LaHaye said the statewide undertaking is part of a national effort by the U.S. Department of Justice called Take-back Day.

The event will provide a unified opportunity for the public to surrender expired, unwanted, or unused pharmaceutical controlled substances and other medications to law enforcement officers for destruction. This one-day effort will bring national attention to the issue of prescription drug abuse. The program also provides an opportunity for law enforcement agencies to establish safe collection sites for all residents, regardless of where they reside.

In Searsport, LaHaye said residents are invited to bring bottles of unused, unwanted or expired medications, minus any over-the-counter packaging, to the Dan Rich Public Safety Building at 3 Union St. LaHaye asked that residents refrain from dropping off used hypodermic needles, as the police department has no way to store or dispose of such items safely.

Getting prescription drugs disposed of in a secure way, he said, can help reduce the frequency of crimes that are often linked to the presence of prescription drugs in a home.

“This will hopefully cut down on things like burglaries that we’ve seen throughout the country, throughout Maine and throughout Searsport that are related to prescription drugs,” said LaHaye.

A press release issued by SPD on the weekend event stated, “Many Americans are not aware that medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse.” It goes on to state that prescription drug abuse is rising at “an alarming rate” across the country, as are the numbers of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to the presence of these drugs.

“Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet,” according to the release.

LaHaye added that Take-back Day and events like it aim to prevent residents from disposing of the medicines improperly, such as by burying them or flushing them down the toilet, which can adversely affect the groundwater.

If residents have unwanted medicines and are unable to stop in during Saturday’s drug take-back event, LaHaye said they are still welcome to bring them by the public safety building for proper destruction.

The event is a win-win for residents and the participating communities, as the service is being provided free of charge.

“There will be no cost to the residents, and no cost to the police department other than our time,” he said.

In addition to the Searsport Police Department, law enforcement agencies taking part in the take-back day in Waldo County include:

• The Lincolnville Police Department will be hosting a drop-off site at the Lincolnville Central School, 523 Hope Road (Route 235).

• Troop D of the Maine State Police will be hosting a drop-off site at the Frankfort Village Fire Station, 7 Maine Road North (Route 1A).