It’s a tragic truth: more people in the United States die from drug overdoses (all drugs combined) than fatal car crashes or gun violence in any given year. And that’s a telltale sign about our culture.
In the early 1900s, doctors introduced pain management and morphine, presumably to treat Civil War veterans. Interestingly, “The abuse of opioids, including prescription painkillers and drugs like heroin, is something the United States has struggled with since before the 1900s. But it’s a problem that keeps coming back … In 1898, the Bayer Company started production of … heroin on a commercial scale … considered a “wonder drug,” … its use spread as addicts discovered that its effects could be amplified by injecting it.”
The pain relievers became a lifeline to sufferers, but when doctors discovered the highly addictive nature of opioids, heroin became illegal in 1924. Then in the 70s, due to the acceleration of drug use, President Gerald Ford set up a task force to deal with the issue. However, as we remember Betty Ford and her public announcement about her battle with addictions (alcohol and substance abuse), her admission was far more effective than any governmental study. Unfortunately, few celebrities are courageous enough to admit their addiction to opioids and we hear about their deaths from overdoses on the news.
The advent of OxyContin exacerbated the problem. Former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden wrote, “We know of no other medication routinely used for a nonfatal condition that kills patients so frequently.”
Speaking from experience, when my dad was one day away from taking his last breath, the hospice nurse gave him extra morphine to relieve his agitation and help him sleep. I was grateful for that, because without the morphine, his suffering would have increased. I don’t think my experience is the same as what we are seeing in the opioid epidemic.
Opioid addiction is like a scourge some people can’t resist. I’m talking about people of every age, socioeconomic background, and race. These aren’t the people with terminal cancer, vets coming back from Iraq with debilitating pain, people who suffer chronic pain from an accident, or have painful reactions to autoimmune diseases.
Living a drug-infested life doesn’t just happen. It happens for a reason, usually a reason that relates back to family, friends, and genetic predispositions. Putting a joint in the addict’s mouth, or shoving a needle up their arm must bring solace, a sense of contentment, a chance to escape reality, or who knows what else.
Appointing a “commission” to study the problem isn’t necessarily the answer. It goes much deeper than that. I think it stems from a lack of belonging to someone who loves the addict unconditionally and sticks with them by providing tough love, guidance, mercy, grace, and patience. Further, drug abuse counseling coupled with counseling from a person of faith, and medical experts builds a solid foundation from which the addict can start a new life. Bringing God into the equation adds a much-needed dimension, because the substance of every person begins with the fact that God creates us in his image.
How does it make you feel to know that God created you in his image?