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PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- More Mainers die each year from substance abuse, especially through the use of pain medications, than in automobile accidents according to Dr. Karen Simone, director of the Northern New England Poison Center.

"If it is not there, someone cannot get into it," she stated simply.

That's one reason why NEWS CENTER has teamed up with the Cumberland and Penobscot County Sheriff's Departments to conduct a day long drug take back event on Friday April 25th.

Dr. Simone says safely disposing of unwanted or expired medications, vitamins and supplements is a good way to protect yourself, and your family, from an accidental poisoning or worse.

"It should decrease common poisonings in several different age groups and several different scenarios," she explained.

"Small children get into things. Sometimes they are things that are left out, but sometimes they are hunting in closets and cabinets and climbing on top of things, and if the medications aren't there they can't get into them," she said.

It's not just young children who can get into trouble when it comes to using medicine that is not prescribed for them.

"Some of the kids will take them deliberately to get high," stated Dr. Simone. "There's really very little hesitation for the most part to use a prescription medication even if it doesn't belong to you.

"We see a lot of teenagers doing very risky behaviors, taking things when they have no idea what they are. They might just grab whatever they can get their hands on. It could be their friend's sister's friend had this in their parent's cabinet, they grabbed everything they could find and they bring it to the party and everybody takes two red and five green. We get those kind of calls and some very sick kids from that."

"Sometimes pets get into some of these medicines," she continued. "We've had callers who have had pets get into medicine that they had from 10 years ago and they couldn't even remember what it was, it isn't even available any more, so if they had taken that back it wouldn't have even happened."

Dr. Simone says getting rid of prescription medications can also keep you safe from people looking to fuel their own addictions.

"Would you keep something in your house that you know might put you at risk for having someone break in an take it?" she asked. "If you tend to store things like that, you are a potential target for people who may break into your home because of your age, especially if they know your habits, to try to get those sorts of things."

She recommends people regularly clean out their medicine cabinets and drawers and remove any medications they no longer use. She says not only could it prevent someone else from having an accident, but it could keep you from mixing up your own medications as well.

She says people should take advantage of drug take back programs to dispose of unwanted prescriptions in a manner that is safe for people and the environment.

On Friday April 25th, NEWS CENTER will be spreading the word about National Drug Take Back Day which is happening on Saturday the 26th. We will have drive-thru locations where people can quickly drop-off any unwanted medicine, vitamins or supplements without getting out of their cars, no questions asked.

From 5am until 7pm people in Portland can stop by the parking lot across from Hannaford on Back Cove or the Airport Mall parking lot on Union Street in Bangor.

If you cannot make it to one of those locations, you can also search this database of dozens of sites in Maine and New Hampshire that will be taking in unwanted drugs on Saturday.

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