Pubdate: Fri, 21 Apr 2006
Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)
Copyright: 2006 The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
Author: J.J. Stambaugh
Bookmark: (Drug Test)
Bookmark: (Walters, John)


White House drug czar John P. Walters will be the guest speaker Monday
at the Metropolitan Drug Commission's 20th anniversary celebration at
the Knoxville Convention Center.

The commission's executive director, Catherine Brunson, says Walters
will discuss how community involvement like that championed by the MDC
is essential in coming to grips with substance abuse.

"It's been everyone working together that's made a difference,"
Brunson said. "And that's how differences are made."

Founded two decades ago by Scott Dean, a Knoxville businessman, the
MDC has since grown into an organization that links law enforcement,
treatment providers and community leaders in an effort to combat
substance abuse.

In 1986, Dean convinced then-Knoxville Mayor Kyle Testerman and
then-County Executive Dwight Kessell to back the creation of a
commission that would link the public and private sectors by providing
education and training.

Throughout the years, the organization has developed drug-testing
policies for business and government, conducted numerous surveys to
gauge the community's substance abuse problem, and played a key role
in creating the Knox County Drug Court.

One of the MDC's biggest successes was an initiative in the early
1990s that led to a DUI forum with former Surgeon General C. Everett
Koop and leading experts on drunken driving, Brunson said.

The initiative ultimately brought about the creation of a DUI court, a
court-monitoring system, and the hiring of two additional DUI
prosecutors, Brunson said.

"It's really helped the DUI conviction rate, which has more than
doubled," she said.

Today, the non-profit organization is using its $360,000 budget to
bring awareness to major issues in the community. At the top of the
list, Brunson said, is underage drinking.

"You can put all the other drugs together and alcohol is still the No.
1 problem," she said.

Prescription drug abuse, however, is also a major concern, Brunson

"Our No. 2 problem is with prescription drugs, and No. 3 is illegally
diverted prescription drugs," she said. "From what we hear inside the
treatment centers, from folks in recovery, prescription drugs are
being diverted on the street in large numbers."

At the University of Tennessee Medical Center, for instance, some
doctors have begun testing pain-management patients because a small
number were simply not taking any of their drugs at all, opting
instead to sell them, she said.

"Most common, however, is when you take what you need for your own use
and then sell the rest," she said.

According to Brunson, one of the biggest hurdles to overcoming
prescription drug abuse is teaching physicians how to properly
dispense narcotic painkillers.

"In the medical profession, with the exception of the pain-management
field, doctors really don't get a lot of education of addiction, and
when they prescribe narcotics, a lot of them haven't had the training
to understand the cycle of addiction," she said.

The commission's biannual survey of substance abuse among Knox County
youths has also shown a consistent increase in prescription drug abuse
among teens, Brunson said.

"In our youth surveys, it's gone up with each and every survey," she
said. "It's not slowed down, it's not decreased, it goes up every
time. When it's in the home, it's kind of like alcohol, and kids are
going to use it because it's easily available."
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