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Second drug summit informs
Crowd hears from authorities, experts
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Forsyth County News

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SOUTH FORSYTH -- Parents learned about some of the most common types of drugs being used by Forsyth County youth during an event Tuesday night.

The Forsyth County Drug Awareness Council, a group formed in 2013 by Commissioner Cindy J. Mills, presented its second Drug Summit at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center.

About 350 parents and teenagers attended the event, which featured information from the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office and those who work with recovering drug addicts.

Besides speakers, the summit also featured several booths set up with information about recovery options for those in need.

The sheriff’s office also had displays of drug-related paraphernalia and the substances themselves, so parents could learn what to look for.

Mills welcomed those in attendance, saying she hoped the meeting would be informative.

“We took your … survey questions [from the previous summit] and tried to incorporate your comments into what this meeting is tonight because we want these meetings to be of value to you,” she said. “We want them to be something that you walk away from and you learn something to help your family and our community.”

Barbara Phelps and friend Angela Webster found the experience enlightening.

“I’m a mom of a middle schooler and two in elementary and … there’s a lot going on in Forsyth County, so we wanted to come and see what’s out there and be more informed,” Phelps said.

Added Webster: “There was a lot of good information.”

During the event, Sheriff’s Deputy Tom Little and Sgt. Richard Thompson went over some of the most commonly used drugs in the county. Among them are marijuana, methamphetamine, Ecstasy, heroin and prescription narcotics such as Xanax and Adderall.

Thompson said many residents would be surprised to know how big of a problem prescription drugs have become.

“Of all deaths in Georgia,” he said, “the most prevalent drug in the majority of the deceased is Xanax, believe it or not.”

Little highlighted some clues parents should watch for. Among them are ordinary spoons with powdery residue and aluminum foil with black streaks.

Kids today, he said, are even getting creative when it comes to ways to smoke marijuana, noting that items such as soda cans, water bottles and even apples can be used as pipes.

Forsyth County Solicitor General Donna Gopaul talked about the importance of monitoring students’ computer activity. 

She urged parents to ensure they have full access, including passwords, to all of their children’s email and social media accounts and to regularly check them for inappropriate activity.

Cassandra Price, director of the Department of Behavioral Health’s division of addictive diseases, and Ryan Stringfield, executive director of Pathways 2 Life, a recovery program, discussed warning signs.

Stringfield also shared his personal story of getting involved with alcohol and drugs while in middle and high school. “The question you might be asking yourself is what can we do? What can the community do, how can we prevent this from happening in our community?”

He said the focus needs to be on awareness that addiction is a disease and to prevent or at least delay the onset of substance use until after age 21. Teens’ brains are not fully developed, which makes them more susceptible to addiction.

“What we’ll hopefully be able to do is move these young adults until they’re saying, ‘Hey, I’m going to protect what I value and my future’ and put that first use off,” he said.

Stringfield added that it’s important to identify teens who are at increased risk of addiction and do routine screenings, as well as to intervene early with teens who are using.

“And lastly, we need to provide appropriate treatment for teens because this problem can be treated, people can recover and experience a high quality of life,” he said. “I’m living proof.”