Panel to discuss dangers of prescription drugs

Published 3:14 pm Friday, November 21, 2008

The Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation’s Substance Abuse Advocacy Task Force is on a mission to raise awareness about the trappings of prescription drug abuse in Shelby County.

The task force will host a panel discussion at Calera High School on Dec. 2 from 5-8 p.m. as part of its quarterly community outreach program.

Task force member Gavin DeFreese, who is a volunteer at the Shelby County Treatment Center, has noticed a significant rise in prescription drug abuse in recent years.

“It is definitely something I see in the community,” DeFreese said. Over the last 10 years, prescription drugs have absolutely skyrocketed in use and the abuse of them has followed suit.”

“Shelby County has quite a problem right now.”

DeFreese said the discussion will serve to debunk the stigma surrounding prescription drug abuse, and inform the public about avenues for treatment. He added the public underestimates the potency of prescription drugs, which can be more dangerous than street drugs.

“Our society considers prescription drugs safe as opposed to snorting cocaine or shooting heroin,” DeFreese said. “That acceptance makes it very easy for young people to say it’s no big deal. Both parents and young people need to realize the dangers.”

The discussion will also focus on the effects of drug abuse on families.

“Not only is the abuser affected, but the families are affected too,” DeFreese said. “The collateral damage from addiction is extremely great.”

DeFreese invites the public to engage in the discussion with the nine-person panel. The panel includes DeFreese, Kent Hunt and Shannon Beard of the state mental health department, Mike Adams of the Birmingham Fellowship House-Alabama Voices For Recovery, Gilberto Perez of the Shelby County Treatment Center, Wal-Mart pharmacist Ann Davis, Calera Police detective Larry Dugans, Calera Fire Capt. Hugh Morrison and Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry.

DeFreese said special guests are scheduled to appear at the event, but their attendance hasn’t been confirmed.

For more information, call 999-4344.