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Group tackles prescription drug abuse
Event set for 6 p.m. Tuesday
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The Story of Prescription Drug Abuse and Addiction

What: Drug Free Coalition of Hall County kicks off a yearlong program about the dangers of prescription drug abuse
When: 6-8:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Walters Auditorium at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, 743 Spring St., Gainesville
More info:


A Hall County group is starting a yearlong effort to address growing concerns about prescription drug abuse.

JP Banks, project coordinator for Drug Free Coalition of Hall County, said the problem is a "growing epidemic."

In 2009, more than 37,000 people in the U.S. died as a result of drug overdoses and brain damage linked to long-term drug abuse. That compares to 36,000 people killed in traffic accidents that year.

The coalition's program begins Tuesday with a presentation in the Walters Auditorium at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville.

The keynote speaker will be Merrill Norton, clinical associate professor at the University of Georgia's College of Pharmacy. The Medical Association of Georgia
Foundation also will be involved with the program.

"During that 12 months, the coalition is going to be putting on other events, other training activities and providing resources to the community geared toward prescription drug abuse, but focusing on different sectors of the community," Banks said.

October through December, the program will focus "on doing things for the medical community, the treatment community and the recovery community," Banks said.

On Oct. 29, the coalition will participate in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Program to collect old prescription drugs, which keeps them out of the hands of those who might abuse them.

The second quarter of the initiative will focus on parents, youths and schools.

Banks said the coalition is planning to work with Hall County schools and youth programs to have kids create short videos about prescription drug abuse to present at a February event.

The Georgia Student Health Survey conducted in October 2010 revealed that nearly 13 percent of Hall County 10th-graders and nearly 8 percent of 10th-graders in Gainesville City Schools reported using prescription drugs not prescribed to them. That compares to just under 6 percent of 10th-graders in Georgia.

A survey administered by the Centers for Disease Control in 2009 revealed that 1 in 5 U.S. high school students reported they had abused prescription drugs. White students were the most common abusers of prescription drugs, with 23 percent indicating they had done so at one time.

The coalition's initiative also will focus on educating parents to the dangers in hopes they can prevent their children from abusing prescription drugs.

During the third quarter of the program, the focus will be primarily on the business community, government and law enforcement agencies. The last quarter will focus on churches, nonprofit organizations and youth service agencies.

Banks said while a large focus of the program is directed at reducing the number of Hall County youths involved in prescription drug abuse, the problem is also a large concern with adults.

"It's a problem for all age groups," he said. "If you look at even national statistics the 25- to 30-year-old group on a national level tends to have the highest abuse rate, but it's also reflected in the older population as well."

Anyone wishing to participate in Tuesday's event can register on the coalition's website at The event will be held 6 -8:30 p.m.