President Obama speaks on opioid abuse at National Rx drug summi - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

President Obama speaks on opioid abuse at National Rx drug summit in Atlanta

Heroin overdose deaths in the U.S. have doubled, compared to just a few years ago, while 4.5 million Americans over age 12 abused prescription painkillers. (Source: WTVM file) Heroin overdose deaths in the U.S. have doubled, compared to just a few years ago, while 4.5 million Americans over age 12 abused prescription painkillers. (Source: WTVM file)
President Obama will lead a panel discussion Tuesday in Atlanta at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit. (Source: Raycom Images) President Obama will lead a panel discussion Tuesday in Atlanta at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit. (Source: Raycom Images)

ATLANTA (WTVM) - The numbers are staggering: heroin overdose deaths in the U.S. have doubled, compared to just a few years ago, while 4.5 million Americans over age 12 abused prescription painkillers, according to recent studies.

The growing epidemic has the attention of President Obama, who will lead a panel discussion Tuesday in Atlanta at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit.

Medical experts will be talking solutions on numerous drug-related issues. Nearly 2000 of the nation's top law-enforcement, researchers and advocates are speaking and learning at the summit, including a high-profile California prosecutor and also US Congressman Hal Rogers of Kentucky, who is one of those behind this big event. 

Monday night, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack got personal in talking about how his mother was addicted to prescription painkillers and turned violent at times. He was on a panel that included West Virginia's Governor Early Ray Tomblin.

Their goal is to save lives by combating addiction to prescription painkillers and heroin overdoses. 

We attended several workshops Monday at the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel in Atlanta, one on how the CDC is using social media for prescription abuse awareness, and another on the investigation and prosecution of pill mills. Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County John Niedermann, who helped prosecute doctors involved in Anna Nicole Smith's overdose death, tells us some physicians are illegally prescribing all over the nation, from rural areas to bigger cities.

"People begin with prescription drugs, then moving to street drugs because it's cheaper and easier to get. We're seeing the doctor shopping and illegal prescribing as the beginning of the problem," Niedermann said.

We also attended a workshop, kicking off this Summit, focusing on the high-impact chronic pain of military veterans, and alternatives to treat that without veterans getting addicted.

Stay tuned for complete coverage of President Obama's visit and the overall Rx and heroine abuse summit. For a full list of events from the summit, click here

News Leader 9's Jason Dennis has been at the summit for the last few days covering the details. 

Copyright 2016 WTVM. All rights reserved.

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