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Summit to address drug abuse
Authorities want to educate parents
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Forsyth County News

If you're going:

Forsyth County Drug Summit

Tuesday, 7 p.m.

Forsyth Conference Center

As recently as this week, a young man was taken to the emergency room for a heroin overdose.

Twice this year, young people have died from taking the drug, including a 16-year-old high school student, according to the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.

The opioid has been increasingly present in the county, and even more worrisome are the young ages of those being taken to hospitals or put in handcuffs for use of these substances.

For Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills and other community leaders, the trends were a call to action.

The first Forsyth County Drug Summit on Tuesday intends to raise awareness of the problem to local parents and begin a discussion on how to tackle it.

Mills begin organizing the community meeting earlier this year after she kept hearing about teen and young adult drug use problems during her time on the social services committee and work with the juvenile justice system.

Then, she learned of two overdose deaths and a rehab center in Texas where four Forsyth County teens were sent to overcome their addictions.

“All of the sudden, I started hearing it every which way I turned,” Mills said. “The more we talked about it, the more we realized kids know about this stuff, but parents don’t.”

As she discussed the issue with the local sheriff’s office, school system, courts and other community leaders, the support to bring awareness to the problem grew.

The summit will include presentations from law enforcement, the justice system, resources for drug treatment and a parent.

Former Braves pitcher John Smoltz, who is “very passionate” about helping young people, will be the keynote speaker, Mills said.

She hopes the summit becomes a catalyst for a group that will work to address drug issues in the community.

Sheriff Duane Piper said he anticipates the summit will educate the public on what many of the young people already know is going on.

“The best outcome we could hope for is awareness by the parents of what their kids are doing,” he said. “Stay involved in their kids’ lives, know what their kids are doing and know if they’re going in a direction that could lead them to drugs.”

He’ll be presenting information about the types of drugs coming into the county and other trends law enforcement has noticed.

Sgt. Scotty Spriggs, narcotics unit supervisor, said the county is seeing a spike in heroin use and illegal use of prescription pills among young people.

Students or young adults living at home may start out by stealing parents’ prescriptions or have a friend get someone else’s medications, he said.

“Then when they’re paying $20 or $30 a pill, well it’s easier to get a hit of heroin. Those pills are not as easy to come by,” Spriggs said. “They graduate from the pills and go to the hard stuff, so to speak.”

He’s also found that young people feel like “heroin junkies” only use needles.

“Well, I’m not a heroin junkie if I don’t shoot up. I snort it or I put it in my mouth and let it absorb,” Spriggs said, recalling what he’s heard in interviews. “Well, that’s still being a heroin user.”

Also during interviews for drug crimes, Spriggs said the deputies often find that users start as teens and the habit worsens.

Boredom and desire to fit in seem like common reasons that teens have started using drugs, he said, and parents don’t see the signs.

The community has several drug education and prevention campaigns through the schools, but if addiction takes hold, Spriggs said affordable resources for rehabilitation are limited in the area.