(C) 2008 The Associated Press.

Two events are scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday in the North Bay as part of a nationwide effort to call attention to prescription drug abuse.

Former U.S. Drug Czar and retired Four-Star General Barry McCaffrey will appear at both events that are part of a nationwide "Recovery Takes Flight" balloon launch.

An estimated 100 drug and alcohol treatment centers in the country will release biodegradable balloons at noon local time on Wednesday. The balloon launch is intended to inspire the fight against the quintupling of prescription drug abuse over the last decade in California and the nation and the traditional abuse of traditional drugs including heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy. They launch also calls attention to the need for and the effectiveness of drug treatment.

"The balloon release signifies that we celebrate, honor and remember the patients, families and staff who have gone through treatment, and carry hope for those still suffering from dependency," said Dr. Barry Karlin, CEO of CRC Health Group.

"After treatment, people report a significant reduction in their alcohol and drug use, increased employment and income, and decreased homelessness. Substance abuse disorders are treatable diseases," Karlin said.

McCaffrey will attend a news conference and balloon launch Wednesday starting at 11:15 a.m. at the Bayside Main Recovery Center, 718 4th St. in San Rafael. San Rafael Mayor Al Boro and San Rafael Police Chief Matt Odetto also are scheduled to attend.

The Marin County event is the principal national balloon liftoff headquarters point.

McCaffrey also will attend a drug recovery event Thursday at 11 a.m. at Azure Acres Recovery Center, 2264 Green Hill Road in Sebastopol.

"Twenty-one million Americans need but do not receive treatment for illicit drug or alcohol problems according to the latest numbers from HHS (the Department of Health and Human Services); less than three million receive treatment," McCaffrey said.

"In California, 3.1 million need but do not receive treatment; less than 200,000 are treated. We have a huge treatment gap," McCaffrey said. The nationwide balloon release is part of National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery month declared by the Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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