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Forsyth County Drug Summit to be held on Tuesday

If you go

* What: Forsyth County Drug Summit

* Where: Cumming City Park, 437 Pilgrim Mill Road

* When: Tuesday, April 25, 6 p.m.

* Cost: Free

For years, officials and community members have recognized there are drugs in Forsyth County and have stressed the issue’s awareness by holding drug summits to inform and give county residents resources.

On Tuesday, the Forsyth County Drug Awareness Council, a group that formed over a goal to fight drug and substance abuse, will hold its seventh semi-annual summit, starting at 6 p.m. at Cumming City Park on Pilgrim Mill Road.

The last summit, which was held in October, focused on ending the stigma of addiction and featured a recovering user as the keynote speaker.
Tuesday’s event is more geared towards youth and the schools, Director Tammy Nicholson said.

“Each time we hold the summit, we try to do a different area of focus because there’s so much to cover,” she said. “Tuesday is more geared towards youth than ever before. The sheriff’s office is bringing all their [school resource officers], Forsyth schools will have counselors there, [Superintendent Jeff] Bearden will be there and attendees will have an opportunity to break out into small groups, making it a very anonymous way to have a dialogue.

“We are attempting to empower humanity with power and resources and we always have so many different types of people in audience, from parents in preventative stages to someone who might be in recovery.”

A “surprise national prevention speaker” will also make an appearance, as will Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman, who ran last year on a platform that included tackling the county’s “drug problem.”

“[The summit] was started several years ago as the council was forming,” Nicholson said. “It came from a group of citizens and community leaders who wanted to see if there was an interest in this type of thing. They didn’t know if there would be five or 50 people show up, and they got about 100, so there’s a definite interest.

“They decided they wanted to help community in this way and got the Drug Free Coalition grant in September 2015. Since then, we’ve been able to do a lot more to provide education and advocacy to youth and others.”

Nicholson said this year’s emphasis on youth stems from recent scientific studies that show early use — before the age of 18 — greatly increases someone’s risk of falling into addiction.

“Studies show people who start experimenting with drugs and are nearing substance abuse before the age of 18 are 40 percent more likely to become an addict,” Nicholson said. “A person’s brain matures until about 28 years old, so by [starting early], you’re kind of priming your brain for addiction.

“We’re trying to hone in on this point and make a dialogue and encourage all youth and parents to come. Even if they’ve gone in past, this is not the same. We’ve been growing and are trying to really hone in on issues that are most helpful to citizens of Forsyth County.”