A woman who has dealt with drug abuse as a mother and a professional will help open a public discussion and prevention campaign in Worthington over the weekend of March 16.

A woman who has dealt with drug abuse as a mother and a professional will help open a public discussion and prevention campaign in Worthington over the weekend of March 16.

Galen Morgan Cooper, Ph.D., will bring the problem to life with a one-woman performance based on her memoir, "A Turmoil Called Home: My Family's Journey into the Hell of Addiction," on March 16 at the McConnell Arts Center (MAC).

The one-hour program will begin at 7 p.m. and be followed by a question-and-answer session with Cooper and a panel of community members who have experience with the drug problem in Worthington.

The following morning, from 9:30 to 11:30, Cooper will present a free workshop on understanding addiction. Along with representatives from the Franklin County Sheriff's Department's Operation Street Smart, she will present information about various drugs, their effects and symptoms.

The sheriff's department will bring actual drugs and paraphernalia to help teach everyone to recognize them.

Cooper is a psychologist working in San Diego and in New York City.

About 15 years ago, she was working on a dissertation on parenting skills when her son became addicted to heroin. She switched her purpose to studying and treating addiction.

The family has been dealing with addiction since her son was 17. He was in and out of various types of treatment programs for 15 years.

Her book and play tell of the very personal roller coaster ride that she would like to help parents avoid.

"It just causes havoc in families," she said. "It is very easy to lose sight of yourself and your family when this is going on."

As a counselor in private practice and in hospitals, she became aware of how pervasive drug abuse really is, she said.

She calls it "the under-belly of medicine" because it is so often under-recognized and under-treated. Most medical schools don't have courses in addiction, and even in her Ph.D. program in psychology, courses on drug addiction were offered as electives.

Most addicts also have another psychological disorder, such as depression or anxiety, which needs to be treated, she said.

Besides heroin, the biggest drug problem in Worthington and throughout the country right now is prescription drugs, she said. People are prescribed painkillers or anti-anxiety drugs to treat short-term problems, and they become addicted.

"When a kid starts using these drugs before they learn to cope with life, they don't learn how to cope with life," Cooper said.

She is dedicated to prevention and education.

"If you don't know what is out there, it can blindside you," she said.

She hopes community members will not be afraid to attend the programs for fear of what others may think. Even if you don't have a problem, you probably know someone who does, and education is for everyone in the community, she said.

"Secretiveness perpetuates the problem," she said.

Cooper is a cousin of retired Worthington schools counselor Kathy Moore. She was invited after Moore became involved in a local effort to deal with the drug problems in the Worthington community.

All of the weekend programs are free, but reservations are required as space is limited. Reserve tickets online at mcconnellarts.org.

The performance is suitable for audiences ages 14 and older.