Parents, students and teachers attended Troup County Prevention Coalition’s town hall meeting Wednesday evening at the Lafayette Garden Inn to listen to first-hand experiences from two men affected by prescription drug addiction.
The two speakers are involved in the Think About It campaign formed by the Medical Association of Georgia Foundation, which brings awareness to prescription drug abuse among teens.
Co-chair of Think About It, Dallas Gay, spoke about his grandson Jeffery’s addiction to pills.
Gay described Jeffery as a normal, active and athletic teenager. Jeffery’s first taste of painkillers was after his wisdom teeth were taken out.
“Disease took over his life and he went to using prescription drugs, to abusing prescription drugs, to addiction,” Gay said.
After several years of addiction and trying to get clean, Jeffery was admitted into a rehab program for six months.
Jeffery came back clean.
“He was the person we had known before the addiction took place,” Gay said.
Jeffery was working full-time, living at home with a strong support system and looking to go back to school. He was drug free for two years.
“But there was something that we didn’t understand and something that Jeffery didn’t understand,” Gay said. “And that was the power of a demon that had possessed him and that demon still lived inside of him and never went away.”
On October 18, 2012, Jeffery went out with an old friend and Gay said that demon reached out to him again.
“Jeffery was gone in less than 24 hours,” Gay said.
A lethal combination of opiates and alcohol ended Jeffery’s life.
Scotty Libby, a recovering prescription drug and alcohol addict, spoke about his journey with addiction and eventually recovery.
Libby told the story of how he grew up in a “normal” and “great” family. But Libby said starting at age 12, he started to feel what he described as a hole. Looking for something to fill that hole, Libby went to doctors and claimed psychological conditions in order to score drugs thinking it would fix the hole.
“From a very young age I was prescribed drugs to cope with my problems,” he said.
Libby said he was prescribed multiple drugs which he said contributed to his path to addiction.
During high school, Libby described himself as a heavy drinker and partier, which only enabled his use of drugs and his depression.
“As far as I’m concern, a drug is a drug is a drug, so alcohol is just as bad as heroin to me,” Libby said.
Libby said when he was prescribed a drug for anxiety during college, that was the start of his active addiction.
During those years, he was also diagnosed with ADD, anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder.
“I just got a doctor to diagnose me with things,” Libby said. “I kept trying out different combinations of medications.”
Libby recalls that during these years, his grades suffered, he was stealing money, forging prescriptions and getting into car wrecks. He also got a D.U.I..
Doctors weren’t his only source for pills. Libby started not only legally getting pills, but also buying pills off people at school.
The moment Libby said he realized he was a full blown addict was the morning he woke up feeling sick complete with sweating, pains, nausea, and suicidal thoughts.
“Then I realized, ‘oh your in really bad withdrawal’ and when I took that pill I wasn’t in withdrawal. That’s when I was hooked.” he said.
Libby stressed the importance that nobody can change or help an addict. The only road to recovery comes from the addict acknowledging the problem and wanting to change he said.
In September 2011, after five years of addiction, Libby went to treatment for four months and he has remained clean since. He also has been accepted into medical school.
“I would like to actually help people because my doctors really hurt me,” he said. “I think doctors are a great thing, but they have a lot of power and they can abuse that power.”
Libby is also involved with Think About It which strives to limit access to pills and prevent addiction.
Following Jeffery’s death, Gay was on a hospital board and realized that this is a problem the medical community is creating. It was then that he and other physicians set out to start an organization to combat the problem.
“[Prescription drugs] are just so freely given out that there needs to be tighter control,”Libby said.
The Think About It campaign has been widely active all across Hall County. Posters, pamphlets and information guides have been placed in doctor’s offices, hospitals, and pharmacy’s.
Gay cited a statistic that 70 percent of pills are accessed though family and friends. Think About It is aimed to make that 70 percent unavailable through safe storage and responsible ownership of prescription medication.
Jamie Daiel of the prevention coalition said hopefully in opening the night’s meeting up to middle school and high school teenagers, Gay and Libby can persuade them from ever trying prescription drugs.
“We’re seeing such a spike in it, especially in the middle schools,” Daniel said.
Daniel said just in the last few weeks she knows of several incidents where middle school students were caught in an illegal use of prescription drugs.
Daniel said the average age for prescription drug abuse is 12-13.
“It’s getting younger and younger,” she said.
At least one teen was impacted from the night’s speakers.
A 17 year old walked up to Libby and said she never heard someone tell her story. She revealed to him that she struggles with addiction to pills and he inspired her to live a sober life.
“The reason why I do this is to help other people,” Libby said. “As long I reach out and help that one girl who came up to me, I feel like my time is worth it here because at least one person listened and one person can relate.”