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FIRST-PERSON: Nation’s drug abuse epidemic awaits Christians’ involvement

DURHAM, N.C. (BP)–We have been privileged to travel from the towering metropolises to sprawling suburban communities and rural farming communities to bring a message of hope with two specific aims: to prevent drug abuse through education and inspiration and to help those hurting with the problem.

At every location we hear the same stories repeated time and time again. Parents and grandparents, siblings and children of those who are missing or have died as a result of serious drug problems tearfully share with us the details of their own personal hells on earth. No community is immune from the deadly clutches of drug abuse, but there is hope.

The hope lies not in passing new legislation or in building bigger prisons, but in changing the hearts of men and women. As long as the demand exists, there will be a drug problem in America. Billions of dollars have been spent on interdiction efforts that, at best, provide only temporary relief.

It is time for a fresh approach, a Christian approach.

In addressing the problem and seeking a solution, the first step is to acknowledge that there is no snake oil that will erase the agonizing problem forever. And there is no set formula that will guarantee the desired results. For those who walk far down that drug road the way we once did and the way so many others have, it is, for most, a long hard road back.

The next step is to become proactive. The more proactive we are, the less reactive we will have to be.

Prevention remains our first line of defense and should begin early in the home, in our churches and at our children’s schools. This should include not only a graphic warning of the potential dangers of drug abuse, but also realistic alternatives to this popular route of escapism and excitement that often leads to disaster.

Another aspect of this dilemma that must be addressed is treatment. Many persons who have drug dependencies of any consequence have depleted any financial reserves that they or their families may once have had. This includes the hospitalization insurance that would be necessary for a 28-60-day stay at a rehab center that charges $400 to $500 per day.

We are grateful for the existence of many faith-based 28-60-day rehabilitation centers that provide positive treatment for a minimal cost. However, many of the rehabilitation programs that are available are not only unreasonably expensive, but also highly ineffective.

One reason for this is that most individuals who suffer from drug-related problems will require more than an initial 28- or 60-day treatment program in order to gain the strength and tenacity to maintain the sober lifestyle. This doesn’t mean, however, that the condition is incurable.

Persons who have spent several years accelerating downward through the spiral of drug addiction will most certainly require several months to regain control of their lives and again learn how to be sufficient enough in themselves to not lean on the crutches of their past. This cannot be reasonably accomplished in the same geographic area of the person’s near demise. It will be most effective if the individual relocates to another area and enters into a halfway house program in this location.

Unfortunately there are few of these halfway houses available, even fewer that are Christ-centered. This is another way we can become proactive.

The costs of establishing and maintaining an environment where this development and healing can flourish are minimal in comparison to other treatment alternatives. If churches in different localities were to partner together in a “sister cities” project, where they could send and receive those who so desperately need second chances, we could accomplish so much. We would not only help those who are hurting but, above all, we would honor our Lord.

Society at large also will benefit from the reintegration of these individuals who will be more productive and less volatile.

There is hope, but we must be proactive. This problem will continue to grow unless we, as Christians, are willing to honor our heritage by becoming our brothers’ keepers.

We truly believe that Jesus is the answer. It only stands to reason, then, that the Christian church should lead the way in providing relief from and finding solutions to the drug tragedy.
Stone and Barber, of Durham, N.C., are coauthors of two new books on alcohol and drug abuse, “Hope for the One Who Hurts” and “Hope for the One Who Cares,” both available from LifeWay Christian Stores.

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  • Ted Stone & Philip Barber