This is a column on drugs. I’m not on drugs but I’m talking about drugs.
These two sentences aren’t as catchy as a photo of me using this issue of the newspaer to roll a joint, but I stated it plainly because there needs to be an honest conversation about illegal drugs.
The topic of drugs is most commonly discussed in emergency rooms, living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, school offices, bosses’ offices, police stations and the reconciliation room (confessional). The thing those places all have in common is the door is most likely closed. We treat it not only as a private conversation, but as something we don’t want other people to know.
The fact is lots of people use drugs and lots of people don’t want to talk about drugs. The late-First Lady Nancy Reagan told the youth of America, “Just say no.” But, forgive me for being cliché, we all know that’s easier said than done.
In the ‘70s and ‘80s, when heroine and cocaine were doing damage to mostly minority and poor neighborhoods, the “War on Drugs” was meant to punish dealers and those in possession of drugs. “Lock’em up! Throw away the key!” It was a rational response but the drugs kept coming.
Those same hardcore drugs are now wreaking havoc on suburban, more affluent and Caucasian neighborhoods. But now the response is about treating the addict. Another rational response, but what changed?
If we’re honest, we know the difference between the two situations and it doesn’t justify the change in attitude. I was taught during years of Catholic education that “we’re all God’s children,” including addicts and dealers, regardless of ethnicity.
I’ve heard the first step to solving a problem is recognizing there’s a problem. More of us need to stop pretending we don’t know someone who is, or was, on drugs. We need to stop saying things like “times were different back in the day.”
We need to stop using arguments that deflect blame on to other groups so we don’t look like we’re the bad guys. We need to open the doors to the conversations we’re having in private.
We have a problem with drugs and we’re not doing enough to solve it.
Read about the government’s attempts to slow the rise of opiate use on Pages 6 and 7. This is not the forum to start the debate on “more vs. less government” because it’s not the president or Congress’ fault, per se. Nonetheless we have this issue and we shouldn’t expect them to ignore it.
One thing we shouldn’t ignore, as the story points out, is the changing face of drug addiction — it’s getting older. Drugs aren’t just a problem for the teenagers and 20-somethings. It’s creeping its way into those in their 30s and 40s through the overuse of pain medication and other routes.
So where is the church’s place in all of this? How should parishes address what is happening — maybe to people in the pews or quite possibly to people those worshipers know?
Would it be so bad to run a workshop about the potential dangers of pain medication?
Would it be so bad to run a needle exchange?
Would it be so bad to encourage kids to tell someone if they see or think their parent, aunt, uncle, older brother or sister is using?
Would it be so bad to actually have a real conversation with a recovering addict to understand what he/she went through – and is going through?
Would it be so bad to reach your hand out to someone struggling with addition?
It would be so bad not to do any of those things.
If the church isn’t willing to do these things, can we expect others to do them?