In response to the spread of drug abuse in the local community, the Carroll Meth Awareness Coalition has sponsored the summit for a number of years, to provide an opportunity, said coalition Chairman Reagen Clayton, for the community to learn more about what plagues it and to bring the problem to an end.
This year’s summit went beyond the problems of meth use and featured speakers knowledgeable on the growing trends among teens and young adults, prescription drugs and synthetic drugs. It was held all day Thursday at Tabernacle Baptist Church.
Tracy Wilson, a counselor at Carrollton’s Resolutions Counseling, coordinated the event and introduced the speakers, stressing the importance of the summit’s name.
“A lot of people think that if things are legal or are just on the cusp of becoming illegal, then it’s OK to do those drugs,” Wilson said. “But sometimes the legal drugs can be more dangerous than the illegal ones.”
Wilson said that while the legal enhancers are a nationwide problem, it’s still an issue in Carroll County.
“If you gave me five minutes, I could drive around to places of business within a two-mile radius of this church, and I could bring back all kinds of stuff that is dangerous that is both legal and illegal,” Wilson said. “It’s very much a part of our community.”
A public information officer from the Drug Enforcement Agency Atlanta field division, Chuvalo J. Truesdell, spoke on synthetic drugs and their growth in the U.S. and Georgia.
“Law enforcement is important in this fight, of course,” Truesdell said. “But the first thing I think about to fix the problem is community. We need folks from the education aspect, law enforcement and treatment. We try to take a broad approach to get it from every angle.”
Truesdell gave an update on the current status of “trendy” drugs like bath salts, K2 or spice and salvia. He also reported on Atlanta’s status as the epicenter of drug cartels, which has effects in the metro area.
Dr. Ross Aikins, a postdoctoral fellow with the National Development and Research Institute in New York, addressed trends in adolescent substance abuse and the history of drugs — “how we got where we are today,” he said.
Aikins spoke on the history of “fad” drugs that are growing in popularity and use, including salvia, K2 or spice, synthetic marijuana, bath salts and “smiles.”
“It’s like playing Whac-a-Mole to make these drugs illegal,” Aikins said. “As soon as something’s outlawed, a road chemist tweaks it enough to make it legal. And a lot of times, that new ‘legal’ drug they’ve created is more dangerous after they play with the chemical makeup.”
Bremen resident Lance Dyer, the founder and president of the Dakota Dyer Foundation, shared his story about his fight against synthetic drugs following the death of his son earlier this year.
“I’m not trying to pull your heartstrings with this story,” Dyer said. “I am trying to scare you. This is not the drug war of the 1980s. This is a fight against organized, money-fed mini-cartels that couldn’t care less about you or your kids.”
Dyer echoed the previous speakers’ claim that legislating and outlawing the drugs is “like a game of Whac-a-Mole.”
“They list one drug on the illegal list, and three more pop up in its place,” Dyer said. “As soon as Gov. Deal signs something into law, there’s already a new strain out there for our kids to buy.”
Several dozen nursing students from West Georgia Technical College attended the summit, dressed in white scrubs and sitting in a large group near the front of the church.
Janet Roman, a nursing school instructor who coordinated the group and registered them all for the summit, said it’s important for the people who will soon work in our hospitals to learn what to look out for drug-wise.
“When they start at a hospital, they need to be able to recognize the symptoms and drugs that a patient might be using,” Roman said. “And they might have family members of their own who have drug problems, so being informed on who they can call is very important to us.”