NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A couple of Christian law enforcement officers know experientially what two recent studies said about the social cost of drug use, that the correlation between drugs and crime is strong and intervention is needed.
“I can tell you that marijuana, alcohol and prescription drug abuse account for the majority of all drug arrests,” Michael Dye, a deputy sheriff in Daytona Beach, Fla., told Baptist Press.
“While not totally gone, cocaine cases are much fewer than they were five or 10 years ago. The illegal use of prescription drugs and doctor shopping is the new drug epidemic,” Dye said. “I call it the Elvis factor. Because the drugs are prescribed by a doctor, then they think it is OK to use and abuse the medications. Tragically, like in Elvis’ case, it will lead to death.”
A report from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in May said among booked male arrestees in metropolitan areas across the country, as many as 87 percent tested positive for an illegal drug.
A second study, from Columbia University, found that substance abuse and addiction cost federal, state and local governments at least $468 billion in 2005, accounting for more than one-tenth of combined government expenditures for all purposes.
“The vast majority of criminal investigations that I am involved in are related in some way or another to drugs or drug use,” Ric Worshill, a Chicago-area patrol officer, told BP. “While in the gang crimes bureau, I found that most of the incidents were related to narcotics distribution or trafficking.
“I work the streets and see the effect firsthand. Many of the people that I grew up with have been or are on narcotics at this time,” he said.
Worshill, who also is a North American Mission Board public safety chaplain, worked on the narcotics task force during part of his 26 years as a police officer.
“I could arrest the users, but I couldn’t get rehab as a part of their sentence,” Worshill, who has served as president of the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship, said. “This is discouraging as they get out of jail and we arrest them again, over and over. The violence related to gangs and drugs seems to be growing more each day.
“Also a good portion of domestic trouble is related to some type of substance use or abuse,” Worshill said. “The current economy has a direct effect on the growing domestic disturbance problem.”
But the economy seems to be doing little to stem the use of drugs, he said.
“The users do more crime to obtain their drugs when there are no other resources. This crime related to narcotics use seems to be the major reason for a majority of criminal activity,” Worshill said. “The age of the user and their social status seems to have little effect. Those who have the money don’t get discovered soon in their usage.”
Dye, who also has worked with the U.S. Marshall Service in Los Angeles and is director of a ministry called Christian Law Enforcement Resources, said the prescription drug epidemic is leading to new types of crime.
“It is common for us to experience residential burglaries where the burglars, once inside the residence, will pass the television, stereo and jewelry and go directly to the bathroom medicine cabinet and remove whatever prescribed medications that they can find,” Dye said.
“Robberies to pharmacies are also on the increase,” he said. “In February, a security guard hired by a local pharmacist shot and killed a robber who tried to rob the pharmacist at gunpoint for [the pain medication] Roxicodine.”
People are selling another pain medication, Oxycodone, for $10 to $20 per pill on the streets, Dye said.
“Another popular drug for kids is to take [the anxiety drug] Xyanax and crush it up and snort it through a straw. I have never seen anything like it in my 24 years of law enforcement. The prescription drug epidemic, unlike the cocaine epidemic of the 1980s, crosses all racial and economic lines,” Dye said.
Worshill and Dye both said they personally believe the church can play a key role in helping to curb the drug epidemic in America by providing spiritual answers to the problems that drive people to seek an escape in drug use.
“Churches should be involved to help change these folks’ lives from the inside out,” Dye said.
Worshill’s wife Gwenn also serves as a NAMB police chaplain in the Chicago area, and the couple looks for opportunities to meet needs, whether related to drugs or other tragedies.
“We minister to the police officers, police agency staff, victims and witnesses of critical life incidents,” he said. “We do the triage, finding resources for these people to heal from the negative experience that they have encountered.
“These incidents can be related to line of duty death, officer involved shooting incidents, rape incidents, child abuse incidents or any other criminal activity that can cause trauma to one’s emotional and spiritual condition. Many times we refer these people to a local minister for continued emotional and spiritual care.”
For drug abuse, Worshill said one good solution would be treatment facilities and active chaplaincy programs in the jails.
“I believe that a combination of rehab treatment, continued sobriety support, continued counseling and most of all a relationship with the Lord will cure this plague that is crippling so many in our nation,” he said.
As the prescription drug abuse problem grows, that addiction will lead to the use of other drugs down the road, Worshill said. And when the money runs out to buy the desired drugs, the victim turns to a life of crime to support the habit, he said.
“The best answer is each local church getting involved in rehab programs that are Christ-based…. While most programs use the 12 steps to recovery system, a Christian center starts with bringing the person to a relationship with God while guiding them through the Word of God.
“With each of the 12 steps a person takes in the process of recovery, the Bible verses encourage and strengthen them against falling back into drug use,” Worshill said. “A Christian-based rehab center gears all of its steps, teachings and desires toward seeking to follow God. The recovery is supported through the strengths and words of the Bible. This is the real difference between a Christian and traditional drug rehab center.”
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press. To read a previous Baptist Press article on the social cost of drug use, visit www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=30653.