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Eyewitness News at 6pm, 8/16/12

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First tonight...the dangers prescription drugs...and what happens when users don't follow the label.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says overdoses were down last year.

While that's good news...who's dying - and what's killing them - may surprise you.

They say there were were 664 drug overdose deaths in 2011 -that's down from 729 in 2010.

And the victims were older than you might think.

When we look at the breakdown by age, we see the age group 45-54 had the most - almost one out of every 3 people who died from overdose victims.

The overdose victims were also overwhelmingly white.. At 91 percent.

There's about a 50-50 split between men and women.

And 77 percent of those deaths were from prescription drugs only.

The GBI says Xanax caused more fatal overdoses last year...than any other drug. Doctors often prescribe that drug to help patients combat anxiety and panic.

Tom George talked to medical professionals about how the drug is used....and misused..

Graves Pharmacy in Macon is a father-and-son business...but after more than 50 years...some things just aren't the way they used to be.

<Drugs have changed, they're much more potent today. There are a lot more drugs that can be abused available today. >

Leading the list...according to the GBI...is Xanax. They say it caused 231 overdose deaths in Georgia last year.

Also known by its scientific name....Alprazolam.. the drug is used for anxiety and panic disorders.

Because people view it as a safe drug...Graves says....people sometimes take more of it than prescribed.

<if one is good, two is better. And that's the mentality we have here. And unfortunately, in our society, we want a pill to cure a lot of our issues.>

<Graves says it's disconcerting...that patients often come in with empty bottles days even weeks before they're supposed to be refilled. >

<Five, seven, ten days early, which lets us know they're not taking it as prescribed or they're doing something else with the medication.>Five, seven, ten days early, which lets us know they're not taking it as prescribed or they're doing something else with the medication.

And other red flags? - patients wanting higher strength doses ... or asking to pay cash instead of using their insurance to buy from multiple pharmacies ...

<And we try and investigate you know where they came from ... or who the orginial purchaser was, whether it was legitimate, or just being sold on the street.>

Chris Patterson of Bibb County's Narcotics Division...says he's seen a lot of prescription drugs sold on the streets. He says illegal dealers typically sell Xanax for $3-4 a pill. Oxycodone $15 for a 30 mg pill, and hydrocodone for $5-8.

But pharmacists warn....users pay a much higher price in the end.

<Next thing you know, you're dependent on that. And if you try and stop taking it, your body's going to be looking for it, and that's where the addiction comes in, and that's difficult for a patient at home to deal with.>

In Macon, Tom George, 13WMAZ Eyewitness News.

Now, in Georgia last year, deaths from Xanax were actually more than cocaine and meth combined.

And the narcotics department tells us in many cases, people buy them right in the parking lots of pharmacies and shopping centers in Bibb County.

Now you've mentioned the common use of Xanax...but any drug...when abused, can be just as dangerous.

In our 13WMAZ web poll today... we asked if someone in your family regularly takes a prescription...and the results were overwhelming...

95 percent of people said yes...only 5 percent said no.

People can still vote in that poll at 13WMAZ-dot-com.

And at five, Frank... We asked a more specific question in our text poll..whether or not people knew someone who abused prescriptions.

About 69 percent of people responded yes to that question.

All right, thanks, Leah, for that information.

In other health news, the C-D-C is recommending all baby boomers get tested for hepatitis C.

That includes anyone born between 1945 and 1965.

The agency's research shows that people who fall in that age group account for about two-thirds of the 3-point-2 million Americans thought to be infected.

The C-D-C made the recommendation today...because hepatitis deaths have doubled since the late 1990's.

Just days before he meets state Senator Miriam Paris in a runoff election, state senate candidate David Lucas is fired up...about a flier accusing him of sleeping on the job.

As Austin Lewis found out... that flier woke up some serious tension today.

Sparks flew at David Lucas's press conference when he brought out this flyer that accuses him of falling asleep on the job.

Now take a look at this flier...it shows the former state representative yawning...and calls that a typical day for him at the statehouse.

It says Lucas allowed the Georgia Music Hall to close and the Brown and Williamson Tobacco to leave the state... taking thousands of jobs with it.

Now Lucas says he wasn't responsible...and says Paris herself who was asleep on the job.

<David Lucas, I have been accused of helping the music hall of fame leave Georgia when it was david lucas and the rest of us who brought halls of fame to Macon and tried my best to keep Brown and Williamson from leaving Macon, but the senator elect was asleep on the job when they did the consolidation bill that she could not explain when she signed the board of education bill that Allen Peake redrew the lines that she cannot explain and we have a special election and of course she was asleep at the wheel when she helped Allen Peake redraw the districts that are majority black to majority white Republican districts. If that's not asleep at the wheel I don't know what is. >

The flier says...it came from an Atlanta organization called....Georgia Forward.

Now we talked to Senator Paris...she says her campaign has nothing to do with this flyer and they don't know anyone involved with Georgia Forward

<Miriam Paris: Our campaign has been totally positive, positive in dealing with what the issues are, um we have had no negative TV ads, no negative radio ads as well as we haven't even mentioned our opponents name so that's signature for my campaign. I've run for office four times now and that is what we do, we run a positive campaign we don't have to resort to those kind of issues. >

When I asked her about Lucas's comment...about her working with Republicans, she says because Georgia democrats are in the minority...they need to work with the G-O-P.

<it's important for us to work with those that's in power now if the district is going to get any of the necessities, any of the resources that we need so, I don't think the people of District 26 will find any problems with me working on their behalf.>

State ethics commission records say the treasurer of Georgia Forward is Atlanta attorney Bryan Tyson.

Today...he said his law firm formed the group two weeks ago at the request of clients... but he would not name them...or say how it's funded.

Tyson says he's a former aide to Republican congressman Lynn Westmoreland...and to the Georgia Republican House caucus.

At today's news conference...Lucas also announced endorsements from several local political figures...including Macon City Council President James Timley and several other council members...including Lucas's wife...Elaine.

Operation Stop Arm is in effect across the state.

The law targets Georgia drivers who pass school buses that are boarding or letting off passengers.

The law states, when a school bus has its stop lights on and safety arm extended, drivers must stop.

Lieutenant Annette Horn, of the Bibb County Sheriffs Office, says it doesn't matter how many lanes are on the road, or which direction the bus and other vehicles are traveling.

Horn says, the fine for violating Operation Stop Arm is set at one-thousand dollars.

Violators could also get up to six points on their driving record.

<the cafeteria is to be a learning lab. Where they learn what are the proper foods and what are the portions and sizes they should eat. Then that translated on to home and to be able to also say to parents, kids can say to parents, you know, this is what we're having at school, how about lets try this, or I tried that at school, and I really like it. >

One other change from the law, school lunch prices have to be a dollar.

This afternoon, Bibb County school board members agreed to raise prices at the elementary school level ten cents to make it a dollar.

Prices at the middle and high school levels were already at a dollar.

Central City Park could soon get a make over thanks to 6-million dollars in SPLOST funds.

Macon and Bibb County approved the penny sales tax last fall.

And Brittiny Barber shows us how that money could be used to help transform the park from old to new.

< So here's your condemned building>

 

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As Bibb Recreation Director Doc Dougherty walks through Central City Park.. He points out several buildings in need of repair.

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< You can put your hand in to the brick and actually pull it out and the clay just crumbles. >

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Dougherty hopes some of those problems can be addressed with the 6 million dollars in SPLOST funds planned for the park.

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<here in Center City Park there's been a lot of not necessarily just neglect I think just forgetting about and not getting to a lot of buildings that have been let go and the facilities itself

<brittiny: one example is the gazebo in the center of Central City Park. It's been here since the late 1800's but now boards are missing and the floor is falling in and because of that it's closed off to the public. >

<I'd take all those buildings down at this point >

Doughtery say many other the old buildings need to go.. to make way for amenities to the park.

He says SPLOST money will add more baseball fields and a multipurpose field for sports like soccer and football.

He wants to see a pond added near the entrance.

<when I say duck pond, meaning paddle boats, canoes, you know something very family friendly come out for a couple of hours and ride a round and paddle around with your family and use this caretakers building as the headquarters for renting the boats >

Brandon Meyers comes out to the park a few time a week.

<we take the bike trail and then we come play at the park.>

For Meyers and other park goers... the potential here is exciting.

<there are definitely some things that could be improved. I really like the idea of the duck pond I think the kids will love that >

And investments like that Doughtery says... Will help boost economic development by bringing more people in to Bibb County.

Brittiny Barber 13wmaz eyewitness news

Doughtery says they plan to fix up the round building.. The gazebo and Luther Williams field.

And he says county leaders will get feedback from the community as they work through spending the SPLOST money.

New at eleven tonight...we're bringing you a special hero central report...about a local charity worker...who received a surprising act of kindness from a member of the community she serves.

We're also helping you square away your weekend plans...with Scene 13. One of our events puts a nice finish on all the little league action this month. You'll hear all about it at eleven.

 

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