Some of the most commonly abused drugs also happen to be the most accessible, and law enforcement is trying to curb that trend.
National Drug Take Back Day is coming up at the end of the month. The program allows residents to take unused or unwanted prescription drugs to designated drop-off sites to safely dispose of them.
The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 27 at the Merced County Sheriff's Department, UC Merced Police Department and for the second time at the Livingston Police Department.
Prescription drugs may seem harmless, but they're more abused than heroine, cocaine and methamphetamine combined, said Wikki Verma, a Livingston resident who helped coordinate the city's event. Since they're commonly left unsecured, children often get hold of the drugs as well.
"There's been a large amount of prescription drug abuse," Verma said, adding that the misuse has been on the rise recently.
Verma helped bring the Drug Enforcement Agency program to his hometown after learning about it while working with the organization on another project a couple years ago.
He expects this year's turnout to be much better than last year's.
"Every year, more and more people are finding out about it," he said. "More people are bringing in old medications."
This year, residents can take their unneeded or expired medications to the Livingston Police Department or to a site at the Fiesta Supermarket on 344 Main St. Verma said they wanted a secondary location since some people are timid about disposing of old medications at the police department.
Narinder Dola, owner of the recently-opened Fiesta Supermarket, said he wanted to get involved with the program to help reduce prescription drug abuse and keep them away from children.
He said there will be a canopy set up outside his store during the April 27 event.
Chief Ruben Chavez of the Livingston Police Department said people are familiar with the problems associated with illegal drug abuse, but the abuse of prescribed medication is often overlooked.
"I don't think people realize how abused prescription medication is," he said, noting that when those medications are disposed, it's often done improperly.
Verma agreed, adding that properly disposing of medications instead of throwing them away or flushing them down the toilet will help prevent needless pollution to the environment.
After five national Drug Take Back Days, more than 2 million pounds of prescription drugs have been collected, according to the DEA.
During the National Drug Take Back Day, drugs can be dropped off at the Livingston Police Department on 1446 C St., Fiesta Supermarket at 344 Main St. in Livingston, the Merced County Sheriff's Department at 700 W. 22nd St. and the UC Merced Police Department, 5200 N. Lake Road.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.