I was going to bring that up. This is from a 2015 Chicago Tribune article, by Dennis Byrne. He said, “Time to face it: We’ve become a nation of addicts. So many addictions it’s hard to list them all. Alcohol. Tobacco, nicotine and vaping on electronic cigarettes. Sugar, fat, junk food. Sex and pornography, the addictions of the mind, body and soul.”
What’s making us, in our culture, prone to all kinds of addiction?
It’s hard to get a read on how much more likely we are to lean towards addiction now than in any other generation before. Addiction has been there a long time. I think the current crisis we’re in is maybe a lot more obvious because of the potency of the substances that we’re dealing with. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. There are newer versions of some synthetic opioids coming on the scene, which are 50 to 100 times more powerful than fentanyl. So I think the deaths and the overdoses are becoming more and more in our face.
But how we got here? That’s a huge question. There is definitely something here to do with the fragmentation of communities and always thinking that there’s something better somewhere else. I think that really disrupts our sense of peace and joy and gratitude. It’s maybe easy to point to social media as a driver of that kind of dissatisfaction with our own lives. But there certainly seems to be something at the broad societal scale that’s maybe pushing us more and more in that direction.
Are there specific policies that you feel would help to address this crisis?
You can’t avoid talking about the war on drugs and the criminalization of drug use and addiction, in particular communities, more so than others. We’re seeing that change here in Nashville, at least. Criminalization really was not helpful at all, to say the least. If somebody is found on the street with addiction issues they need to be referred to help, not put in jail.
I also think you have to talk about how much we are paying people for lower level jobs. Are we paying a decent wage or are we stressing people out and essentially adding to fragmentation in these communities by how we treat people?
My newsletter looks at matters of faith in private and public life. I’m curious: What role could faith communities play in this crisis?
In Tennessee, there’s actually a great effort headed up by Monty Burks, who’s with the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and his work is all around the faith-based initiative. He and his team have been setting up a network of recovery congregations. He’s been working with congregations to help them understand what addiction is and how to work with it, how to understand that relapse is not a moral failing, but is something to be expected, and how to work with it.