This weekend Maine police departments, hospitals and health organizations are collecting unwanted and expired prescription drugs so they can be disposed of safely. The drugs will be collected at 169 drop-off points around the state Saturday, Oct. 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Last April, according to Maine Public Safety Spokesman Steve McCausland, almost six tons of unwanted drugs were collected in Maine and another four tons were collected last fall.

According to a press release from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which coordinates National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, the nationwide program addresses a vital public safety and public health issue.

“More than seven million Americans currently abuse prescription drugs, according to the 2009 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health,” stated the release. “Each day, approximately, 2,500 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time, according to the Partnership for a Drug Free America. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including the home medicine cabinet.”

The USDEA reported that four days after last fall’s take-back event, Congress passed legislation amending the Controlled Substances Act, allowing DEA to develop a process for people to safely dispose of their prescription drugs. DEA began work immediately after the legislation passed. Until the process is complete, however, DEA will continue to hold take-back events every six months.

Searsport Police Chief Dick LaHaye said he hopes to see the same positive response from the public that he’s seen during past drug take-back initiatives.

During the spring drug take-back event some residents emptied their expired pills into plastic baggies before dropping them off at the police department. LaHaye said that was a big help in terms of cutting down on the amount of empty pill bottles that end up at the station following these kinds of events.

“It makes it easier for the [police department],” LaHaye said.

Belfast Interim Police Chief Walter Corey said the drug drop-off point for Belfast residents will be the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office, as this fall, the WCSO and the Belfast Police Department will be working together.

Corey said medications in liquid form will be accepted as long as they are delivered in a sealed container, but that needles will not be accepted at the collection site.

MDEA has listed the following drug drop-off locations in Waldo County:

• Waldo County Sheriff’s Office, 45 Congress Street, Belfast;

• Searsport Police Department, 3 Union Street, Searsport;

• Lincolnville Police Department, 493 Hope Road, Lincolnville, and;

• Maine State Police Troop D, Unity Foundation building, Main Street, Unity.