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      Meth 5 times stronger than cocaine

      Jim Langford, Georgia Meth Project Executive Director.

      The Georgia Meth Project is working to combat the growing issue of methamphetamine use in the state of Georgia and hoping to keep others from becoming addicts.

      Wednesday evening the organization joined in a forum with local officials to gain support in the fight.

      The Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit, Phoebe medical professionals, and educators with the Dougherty County School System all sat on a panel to shed light on the issue in southwest Georgia.

      Ralph Craven, a recovering addict, also sat on the panel.

      It's been kind of like a tornado. It just tore my whole world apart, said Ralph Craven.

      He says since the time someone slipped methamphetamine into drink at a party, he's been battling the demon of drug addiction.

      It's been a 12 year journey that the recovering addict and officials want to keep others from travelling.

      Youths ranging from ages 12 to 17 are at the highest risk, but younger people have been known to fall victim.

      We've even seen some young people start as early as 9 or 10 or 11-years-old at taking the drug. That's hard to believe but that's what we're seeing, said Georgia Meth Project Executive Director Jim Langford.

      Langford says the issue of meth usage affects all demographics; young, old, white and black. It TMs a drug five times more powerful than cocaine and once someone uses it for the first time, it TMs hard to get off.

      With drugs constantly coming in from Mexico, officials say Georgia has become the east coast distribution hub for the drug and it's costing the state $1.3 billion a year.

      That's in a little bit of everything from healthcare costs, foster care, court cost, crime, petty theft, burglary all kinds of things, healthcare particularly, said Jim Langford.

      Medical professionals with Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital say it TMs time to spread awareness about this drug because they see the effects of it almost every day.

      "We do see burn victims. We see devastated families. We see the disease in terms of the addiction that comes from meth and it's alarming. It's extremely alarming, said Phoebe Legislative Affairs Representative Darrel Sabbs.

      Although the Georgia Meth Project is just bringing its campaign to southwest Georgia, the organization has been at the forefront of the issue in northern counties.