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Parents share stories, warnings at drug forum
Center Point Substance Abuse Prevention Director Judy Brownell speaks Tuesday night about trends in adolescent drug use for the Partnership for Drug Free Hall forum in the Brenau Downtown Center in Gainesville. - photo by Nick Watson
Hall County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Scott Ware points to a photo of $500,000 in drugs seized in Hall County while talking to parents Jan. 23, 2018, at the Brenau Downtown Center. - photo by Nick Watson

One night, three cups and 10 seconds.

Doug Hanson said that was all it took to change his life and his grandson’s life.

“I went from a mentor to a defender, and he went from the thrill of Friday night lights to the loneliness of a 24/7 timeframe behind the razor wire at (a youth detention center),” he said.

Hanson and other parents shared their stories at Partnership for Drug Free Hall’s second forum in the “Not My Family” series Tuesday at the Brenau Downtown Center.

After drinking at a party, Hanson’s grandson was trying to sleep off his stupor in a car, where friends doused him with water. After repeated warnings to leave him alone, his grandson “reacted violently with a pocket knife,” Hanson said.

The title was “The Highjacked Brain” with featured speaker Merrill Norton, a University of Georgia professor.

Norton explained the “highjacking” as the drug becoming the “primary relationship of importance” over all other relationships in a person’s life.

“Why aren’t people grateful when you intervene on them and tell them you’re drinking and drugging too much? Why don’t they want to get help? Because the part of the brain that’s activated will do everything it can to make sure that doesn’t happen. It will suck the joy and happiness out of everybody that is in that anti-reward system,” he said.

Judy Brownell, the substance abuse prevention director at Center Point, educated the audience on recent research on adolescent drug use.

One statistic was children who learn about the dangers of alcohol and other drugs from parents were 50 percent less likely to use.

“I think it’s important to them,” Brownell said. “It’s just sometimes they can’t tell us that.”

For two years and two weeks, Zach Estes said he had gone without the need for a drink. Estes said it started with his drive to be accepted by his peers.

“The most potent acceptance was from being a daredevil, from being fearless, and that certainly meant with experimenting with substances,” he said. “That was what I sought out.”

Estes said he passed out multiple times as a 14-year-old.

“If you put a car in neutral on a downhill slope, it’s going to roll down the hill. That’s the way I am when I drink,” he said.

Tane Shannon shared the story of her son, Mick Shannon, who died at 26 from an opioid overdose.

Mick Shannon had multiple surgeries at the beginning of his college career, most of which concerned his shoulder from playing football.

“Had I had a conversation with my doctor or anyone, I would have looked at it and said, ‘No, I don’t want that for my son.’ I would not have picked up that prescription,” she said. “Tell me other ways that we can help his pain.”

Tane Shannon’s son came home one day and told them everything.

“He said that the worst fear he’s ever felt was waking up every morning and feeling like he could not possibly live without that pill,” she said.

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