Top GA leaders get candid at national drug summit - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Top GA leaders get candid at national drug summit

(Source: Jason Dennis / WTVM) (Source: Jason Dennis / WTVM)
(Source: Jason Dennis / WTVM) (Source: Jason Dennis / WTVM)
WTVM's Jason Dennis and Aaron Lee (Source: Jason Dennis / WTVM) WTVM's Jason Dennis and Aaron Lee (Source: Jason Dennis / WTVM)
(Source: Jason Dennis / WTVM) (Source: Jason Dennis / WTVM)
(Source: Jason Dennis / WTVM) (Source: Jason Dennis / WTVM)

ATLANTA, GA (WTVM) - There was still a big crowd on the third day of the national Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in downtown Atlanta. 

It opened with a congressional forum that included US Rep. Buddy Carter of Georgia. As the only pharmacist in Congress right now, he told the crowd opioid abuse is a "disease and weakness that needs to be treated."

He also said doctors in the VA are out of control, prescribing too many opioids for veterans in pain. 

Rep. Carter of Savannah was also honest in saying one of his pet peeves is the relaxation of laws on marijuana, which he calls a "gateway drug."

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens was also at the summit. He told News leader 9 that Rx drug abuse is an epidemic, leading to 700 deaths per year in the state, but he says the solutions need to focus more on help instead of just punishment.

"Putting someone in prison does nothing to stop the addiction. The treatment center is key. And keep in mind, a lot of the folks who start with opioids than go to heroin. Heroin is cheaper and even more deadly," GA Attorney General Sam Olens said.

We also sat down with a national DEA agent Wednesday afternoon, who says the rise in prescription opioids feeds directly to heroin use.

The Drug Enforcement Administration's national chief of communications outreach, Sean Fearns, tells us they are going after the biggest and baddest drug traffickers feeding poison into many families, but law enforcement needs help from communities.

"When we're making significant seizures with our Mexican counterparts south of the border, and we're working with our state and local police in Georgia and Alabama and other states, we're having an impact," Fearns said. "The trick to get a handle on this epidemic is we can't just stop with enforcement. We have to rip out the drug traffickers - and say folks, there needs to be treatment, education for kids, and we need to make sure our parents know to lock up their medications."

On Wednesday, our WTVM crew attended numerous workshops on topics ranging from youth prevention programs to red flags for pharmacies.

This national summit ends on Thursday.

Copyright 2016 WTVM. All rights reserved. 

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