By Doug Ireland
---- — Last year, an unprecedented October snowstorm kept many people away.
But not this year.
Hundreds of pounds of old and unwanted prescription drugs were discarded in Southern New Hampshire Saturday as part of National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.
The event, held each fall and spring, allows people with expired medications — or those no longer needed — to dispose of them properly so they don't end up in a landfill or in the wrong hands.
Prescription drugs often are stolen from medicine cabinets during burglaries or abused by people they weren't intended for, including teenagers, police said.
Although an increasing number of police departments now have drug drop-off boxes so medications can be disposed of at any time, local departments said they still received quite a few prescriptions over the weekend. The drugs are boxed and sent to the Drug Enforcement Administration to be destroyed.
Across New Hampshire, 4,705 pounds of drugs were collected in the last round, according to Tony Pettigrew, an agent with the DEA's Boston office.
"That's 4,705 pounds of unneeded, unwanted medications that aren't in someone's medicine cabinet and not going to pose a threat to somebody," he said. "People aren't going to be tempted to take it and use it and abuse it."
In Derry, police Capt. Vern Thomas said his department collected 147 pounds. That compares to 89 pounds a year ago when an afternoon snowstorm may have discouraged some people from coming in. A year earlier, 140 pounds were collected.
In Hampstead, approximately 40 people dropped off 75 pounds of medications, Lt. John Frazier said. Forty pounds were received during the last collection, he said.
Some police departments, including Londonderry, were still waiting to hear from the DEA exactly how much was collected. The DEA weighs and tracks the amounts from each department.
Plaistow Deputy Chief Kathleen Jones said her department collected a big box of medications. "We do a few of these a year and they are still very popular," she said. "People are glad to have a place to take them."
Plaistow teamed up with Danville and Kingston to deliver the boxes to the DEA, she said.
Danville had one box while Kingston police Chief Donald Briggs said his department had two.
"We were extremely busy," Briggs said.
Several local police departments have installed drop-off boxes within the last few years. They include Sandown, Salem, Pelham and Windham.
That means they receive fewer prescriptions on Drug Take Back Day. "Now that we have (a box) in the lobby, it has decreased," Pelham police Lt. Brian McCarthy said. "All in all, the program is working perfectly."
Windham police Capt. Michael Caron said his department received 76 pounds. A year ago, the department collected 135 pounds.
Pelham and Windham installed their boxes last winter.
Sandown police Chief Joseph Gordon said his department only received about a dozen prescription bottles Saturday. But that's because they have collected more than 50,000 pills since installing their box in February 2011.