In America today, opioid and heroin use is at an all-time high. Teenagers, as well as adults, are found every month, in shady motels and alleyways after overdosing their drug of choice. The number of drug abusers continues to increase, and it seems there is no hope in sight.
According to the National Institute On Drugs, over 115 people a day in the US die after overdosing on opioids. Each year, over $78 billion in total economic burden is associated with prescription opioid misuse, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How can the opioid and heroin crisis end? What can be done to stop young people and adults from making poor choices using these dangerous drugs and doing any and everything to get their next high?
Treatment programs are available for addicts but reaching out to them takes time and effort. Most addicts are unwilling to seek treatment. Churches today are looking to use their influence to try and help those affected by opioids and heroin, hopefully leading addicts to treatment and recovery by providing a faith-based perspective.
Churches Fighting the Opioid Epidemic
In Tennessee and Virginia, churches are teaming up to take on the crisis involving opioid use. In the region of northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia, teens, as well as adults, are becoming addicted now more than ever. Churches are seeing their parishioners affected by the drug use, from overdoses to broken families.
In the region, faith-based organizations created the Holy Friendship Collaborative to fight the epidemic, using a faith-based initiative to provide a form of treatment for addicts. The goal is to address why the individual needs the substance and taking care of that problem so that opioid use is not used to fill a void or deal with an emotion.
Churches in Tennessee and Virginia use the Holy Friendship Collaborative to provide transitional housing for individuals suffering from addiction as well as mentoring programs for those struggling from addiction. Meetings may be hosted at local churches including Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, and other recovery options.
Practical needs can also be met by the churches as well. Many young people find themselves out on the streets once they become addicted to heroin or opioids. The churches offer food, clothing, and shelter via outreach programs. During an individual's recovery, churches can be the go-between, providing an addict with a place to rest and gain access to practical needs that are not begin met.
Take young addict Josh for example. He was living in alleyways, doing odd jobs or stealing to pay for his drug habit. He found a local church, part of the Holy Friendship Collaborative, by accident one day and was able to gain access to clothing and food. With the help of the church, Josh saw that people do care and he was able to get clean and become part of a program for recovery.
As these church groups work together via the new coalition, members in the community have access to real treatment. There are Christian rehab centers that take a faith-based approach to treatment that can be a turning point for drug addicts. Most addicts use drugs to fill an emptiness. With religion, individuals can find something bigger than themselves to believe in. They can use their faith to gain a new perspective on life, moving past drug use and gaining a new sense of self.
Such treatment centers will use traditional methods such as detox, group therapy, individual counseling, etc., along with using the teachings of Jesus to provide addicts with practical options for fighting their addiction. The patient learns techniques to deal with their addiction while leaning on Christ to get through tough times.
While churches cannot offer medical services, they can be a go-between, offering practical needs as well as meeting space and more for addicts. In Winchester, Virginia, a plan of action led by Brad Hill has been in place for some time to fight the drug crisis. Himself a recovering drug addict, Pastor Hill moved to Winchester in 2012 and started a congregation for other recovering addicts two years later.
Known as Grace Downtown of Winchester, Hill has been able to grow the church, now holding services in a formal building, with hundreds attending. The mission of the facility is to help people who are going through recovery or addiction. Hill was able to gain recovery from his addiction using faith to remain clean. Hill now uses his efforts to help others, sharing his story of addiction and recovery to encourage others in the local community.
This is just one example as to how the church can help the local community with drug addiction services. Offering shelter for addicts or providing meeting space for recovery groups are just one form of assistance. Churches can also offer basic needs such as clothing and food as former addicts go through therapy and treatment.
Most addicts, by the time they reach treatment, have hit rock bottom. With the church providing encouragement and physical assistance, addicts can have the push and positive backing they need to move forward with recovery.
Dale is a writer and researcher in the fields of mental health and addiction. After a battle with addiction, Dale was able to find sobriety and become the first in his family to earn a Bachelor's degree. Dale likes writing about these topics to help lift the negative stigma associated with mental health issues and substance abuse. When not working you can look for Dale at your local basketball court. You can find more of his work on Twitter.