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Forsyth County Drug Summit raises awareness
A Forsyth County Sheriffs deputy shows drug paraphernalia Monday during the annual drug summit. - photo by Micah Green

FORSYTH COUNTY — Forsyth County Sheriffs’ deputies soon will be armed with a life-saving device.

During the third annual Forsyth County Drug Summit on Monday night, Sheriff Duane Piper announced the agency has secured Narcan nasal injections, an opioid-overdose reversal that quickly counteracts deadly overdose effects.

Narcan is gaining traction across Georgia and the country as groups aim to combat a recent rise in drug-related deaths. Piper said traffic units, uniform patrol, school resource officers and narcotics deputies will carry kits.

“That’s a big thing to admit there’s a problem,” he said. “But if we don’t recognize the problem and we don’t do anything, it will get worse.

“We like to say there’s a problem in Atlanta. But we have it, too. Kids are drinking and doing drugs. Not everyone, but it’s here.”

Addressing a crowd of about 300 parents, students, nonprofit officials and others gathered at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center, Piper shared how some deputies have witnessed an overdose.

Some parents brought their high school students to the summit for education and prevention. Others came only with their daughter’s picture on postcards.

“We can’t administer [Narcan] if we don’t know they need it,” Piper said. “So kids have to call 911.”

A focus of the summit was to spread awareness of the 911 amnesty law Georgia passed in 2014. It protects anyone from being arrested for using or being around drugs if a friend is overdosing and they call 911.

“We have had several situations in Forsyth County of deaths that did not have to occur,” said County Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills, who has led the campaign for the summits and drug awareness.

“Josh Gordon was at my church camp and actually in my group and on my bus, and I taught him. He could’ve survived if his friends had cared and got him to help.

“And they didn’t. And he didn’t. It’s as simple as that.”

Booths filled the room, and people were on hand to field questions and even dispose of old or unused prescription pills.

Deputies showed parents various types of drugs and paraphernalia. And the parents also were shown where teenagers typically hide those items in a bedroom.

Representatives handed out information on the 911 law and gave away Narcan kits to parents in need.

No Longer Bound had a booth with information on their local recovery program for men.

“I’ve studied addicts for 25-plus years, and I still don’t fully understand addiction,” said Merrill Norton, a clinical associate professor at the University of Georgia and the event’s keynote speaker. “It changes brain chemistry. It changes brain pathways. It changes brain volume. It is an extremely destructive process.”

He explained the science behind addiction and why it is a disease.

“There are 900,000 addicts or alcoholics in Georgia and less than 3 percent of them will get treatment,” Norton said. “They’re trying to use to get back to normal.”

The three key components in drug awareness, he said, are early education and intervention and long-term treatment.

Fifth grade often is the first contact kids have with drugs. Of the 50 percent of Americans who drink or try drugs, 89 percent will develop a pattern, 11 percent of whom will become addicted.

“You cannot take away the psychic, compulsive component that will be with them for the rest of their lives,” he said. “That’s why what you’re doing is good. If we can just save one of these young brains.”