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Drug abuse discussed at meeting

Photo by Laura McCallister

Photo by Laura McCallister

CONYERS -- Rockdale County Coroner Stephen Boyle said he supported the establishment of a statewide database to monitor narcotic prescriptions and curb abuse. Prescription drug abuse was discussed at a meeting this week with state and federal leaders.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for Georgia's northern district hosted a summit March 2 with several other state agencies to discuss what they called "an epidemic of prescription drug abuse" in the state, according to a recent press release. The summit included talks and presentations from those who are seeing the problem firsthand. Experts cited more than 500 people across the state who died last year from prescription drug overdose.

The Georgia Senate recently voted 49-6 to create the database to track doctor-prescribed drugs to make sure patients are not receiving multiple prescriptions of the same drug from different offices or in some other way abusing legal drugs.

Dr. Boyle said he was for it.

Opponents of the legislation fear the database may be too invasive.

"But it's not in such a way where any personal identification is going on," Boyle said. "(Lawmakers) have paid enough attention to the privacy aspect of it to make it a reasonable thing for the state."

Rockdale County has not had any deaths attributed to prescription drug overdoses, according to Boyle, but there were a few deaths related to it last year.

Part of the March 2 summit discussed "pill mills," a term used to refer to doctors offices that prescribed medication and did little else.

While there are no "pill mill" sort of businesses in our community, Boyle said, "We're seeing some people who are suffering from it in Rockdale County."

He said law enforcement and his office have been pretty aggressive in investigating suspected situations of abuse.

"It's on the front burner," Boyle said. "Our office is absolutely on the lookout for it."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.