Forum discusses dangers of drug abuse

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For many people, drug abuse is a topic they know far too much about. Dakota Brown is one of them.

At least two people in Brown's family have dealt with drug abuse, but the implications have affected everyone. 

"Within the last couple of years, we've really been affected by it in my family," said Brown. "My sister's husband passed away last year from a drug overdose. My brother was so bad into his addiction that it was to the point that we were either going to get a call from the police that he was going to jail that we were going to get a call saying that he had overdosed."

Brown's brother is now serving time in jail. She has learned the hard way just how deadly drugs can be. 

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"I hope that everybody would take the bigger initiative and become whatever they aspire to be in life, whether it's go to college or the military. The sad thing is people are choosing drugs over that," Brown said. "Everybody can be affected by it, whether you're the person who is on drugs or you are the family member."

On Thursday, her school hosted a discussion that hit close to home. 

Students and parents gathered at South Doyle High School to hear from law enforcement officers and former addicts and learn more about the dangers of drug abuse. 

Numerous community groups and agencies took part in the forum hosted by Knox County Schools, including the Knox County Health Department, the Metro Drug Coalition, the Knoxville Police Department, the Knox County Sheriff's Office, the Knox County District Attorney General's Office and the district parent teacher association.

"We've got to start having conversations like this one," said Webster Bailey, a former drug addict who currently works with Cornerstone of Recovery. "In East Tennessee, opioid abuse is the biggest problem that we have."

In a time where hundreds of people are dying every year in East Tennessee from opioid related deaths, Brown worries that the topic has become normalized. 

"It's become normalized in our society which is really sad, it's just become normal for anyone to be on drugs," Brown said. 

The movie "Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict" was also screened. The documentary, released by the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration, features interviews with people who have fought opiate drug addiction. It's meant to alert young people about addiction.

There will be two more opioid forums put on by Knox County Schools. The next will be on Oct. 25 at Fulton High School followed by one on Oct. 26 at Halls High School. 

For more about the program, click here