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Atlanta Legal Nurse Consultant Attends 2nd Annual "Illicit Drug" Conference


Atlanta, Georgia – Atlanta legal nurse consultant Liz Buddenhagen, registered nurse and certified legal nurse consultant attended the 2nd annual conference on “Illicit Drugs” by Piedmont College in Athens, Georgia and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration May 14, 2010.

About the conference:

Karen Kuehn Howell, Ph.D., of Emory University, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, kicked off the day with “The Impact of Maternal Substance Abuse on the Community.” Howell is involved with the Marcus Autism Center which has many departments, one of which monitors all types of pre-natal exposures, including drugs and alcohol. Howell pointed out that alcohol is big business in the United States. She described that whole families are involved with drug and alcohol abuse up to and including criminal activity and eventual foster care for children.

Next, Jack Killorin, Director of Atlanta High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) talked about “Current Drug Trends.” With Atlanta being the eastern hub of Mexican drug trade, he outlined the geographical spread of the drug industry from 1995 (DeKalb and Fulton counties) to current outgrowth reaching into the Carolinas. The U.S. absorbs $28 billion per year of Mexican drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Marijuana is domestically grown. While law enforcement and treatment are important, prevention is the best method to combat the drug trade noted Killorin.

Ananias Green, Diversion Investigator of the Atlanta Field Division discussed “D.E.A. Diversion Overview.” In 2008, 6.9 million Americans were current non-medical users of psychotherapeutic drugs in a one month period. In the last several years, emergency room visits have increased sharply for pharmaceuticals abused.

Special Agent Michael Karnbach, Pharm.D. of the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency presented “Prescription Medicine Abuse in Georgia.” Karnbach noted that when the economy goes down, the prescription drug use goes up. These drugs are primarily obtained by theft and fraud and overlap all crimes.

He discussed that Georgia’s laws permit the “perfect storm” that allows this abuse of prescription drugs to flourish here related to inadequate monitoring. The prescription drug trade is highly lucrative for dealers.

The Special Agent stressed the importance of Georgia creating a centralized database of prescriptions to cut down and prevent abuse. Georgia is in the minority of states that does not have a “Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP)" The current system of sending just a handful of agents from pharmacy to pharmacy to monitor such for the entire state is outdated and ineffective with the today’s volume.

Winding up the day, Kris Sperry, M.D., and Chief Medical Examiner of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) discussed “Prescription Medicine Abuse and Morbidity Trends.” Beginning with alcohol, Sperry stated that every person at 0.05 alcohol level is affected relative to driving – that there is measurable and detectable impairment. In Europe, the acceptable alcohol level to drive is zero.

Continuing discussion about the lack of a prescription drug monitoring program in Georgia, Sperry informed attendees that M.D. prescription mills are moving to Georgia from Florida due to the lack of effective monitoring. Therefore, death rates from prescription drugs go up in Georgia. Of the autopsies the GBI does, 20% are drugs deaths and of those, 85% involve prescription drugs – either alone or combined with other drugs.

About Liz Buddenhagen:

Liz Buddenhagen, RN, CLNC, is the owner of Buddenhagen & Associates, an Atlanta legal nurse consulting firm assisting Atlanta attorneys with medically related legal cases. For more information view website, email or call 770-725-2997.


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