Having lived in the Greater Cincinnati/Tri-State area for the past 28 years, I have seen the challenges of our communities to combat the drug epidemics that have come through our region. Over the 23 years I have been active in what I’m hoping is making an impact on the drug problems/epidemic throughout our region as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor. A recent article in the Cincinnati Enquire I believe accurately tells the story of the Drug Epidemic in 2014.
In the past 23 years I have counseled thousands of individuals that are struggling daily with an addiction either to such things as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, diet pills, benzo’s (Xanax and Valium) and many other drugs. However, I have not seen a drug that has torn through the very fiber of our society as Heroin has over the past 5 to 7 years. The following tragic re-wording Psalm 23 by an anonymous heroin addict set the reality for the current drug crisis today!
"King Heroin Is My Shepherd, I Shall Always Want."
"King Heroin is my shepherd, I shall always want.
He makes me to lie down in the gutters."
"He leads me beside the troubled waters.
He destroys my soul.
He leads me in the paths of wickedness."
"Yes, I shall walk through the valley of poverty and will fear no evil for you, heroin, are with me."
"Your needle and your capsule comfort me."
"You strip the table of groceries in the presence of my family."
"You rob my head of reason.
My cup of sorrow runs over."
"Surely heroin addiction shall stalk me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the damned forever."
What has become even more ironic to me is the denial within the church today that drugs and especially heroin are a serious problem. This continual delusion that the young people and adults in our churches are not addicted and the fact that pastors honestly believe it. I sadly understand parents loving their children, or how they could, for a short time, be in denial. However, the reality is that it is time to wake up and smell the roses. The National Institute for Drug Abuse reports that over 1.6% or nearly 4 million people over the age of 12 reported using Heroin at least once. Heroin being cheap has not helped with this national epidemic. However, if we add in the use of other opiates such as OxyContin, Vicodin, other drugs with an opiate/morphine base, the numbers become much higher
There continues to be a high risk for overdose when an individual uses Heroin or other opiate substances, and the potential for dependency is very high. Results or effects from using are generally slow and shallow breathing, blue lips and fingernails, clammy skin, convulsions, coma, and possibly death.
What now … it is time for parents, church leaders, and the community to overcome the denial that has kept us from being a resource for success in recovery that are effected by the use of Heroin or other opiate drugs. What are the signs? Missing pills from prescription bottles in the home, behavioral changes, loss of interest in school, extracurricular activities and friends, often appears to have excessive sleepiness (because opiates are sedatives), requesting or spending money with nothing to show for it, needle marks or unseasonable long-sleeved shirts to cover them up (this is not an exhaustive list). Opiate users eventually build up tolerance to the drugs, so they need increasing amounts to achieve the same effects.
As a parent: It is essential that we get over the mindset of what will be thought of me? It is time to intervene, ask questions, and find the truth. As a parent it is often times better to ask the tough questions and be wrong, than not ask any question and be totally right that they were using and find out too late. Recommend a treatment program for them, either inpatient or outpatient depending on the individual. Some will require short term help and make a great recovery plan, others will need ongoing support. Call your insurance company for recommendation, call the local hospital, and call Narcotic Anonymous. They all have great resources to help you find help.
As a church: It is essential that we pull our head out of the sand, and provide as many resources as possible. Sadly, praying at the altar is not going to be enough for most Heroin/Opiate addicts. The ability to provide counseling (if you have some knowledge) or develop a great resource list is the key to helping them recover. It will also take realizing that it is going to take the addict, family, church, and community working together to help them find the tools to not use.