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Pope Francis Calls Addiction a ‘New Form of Slavery’ in 2016 Workshop on Narcotics

pope francis calls addiction a new form of slavery

One of the most important things to remember about addiction is that no one develops it by choice. As Pope Francis aptly put it back in November of 2016, drug addiction is a modern form of slavery that requires adequate rehabilitation to restore victims’ happiness, dignity, and lives.

Workshop on Narcotics: Problems and Solutions of this Global Issue

We cannot fall into the injustice of classigying them as if they were objects or broken junk; rather, every person should be valued. Pope Francis has always been an advocate of addiction recovery. He is one of the continually increasing number of people who understand that addiction is a disease and not an indication of weak morality. He does not fault people in recovery for their afflictions. In fact, the Pope places blame for addiction rates on the drug trade, calling it out as a primary source of the greed and corruption that plagues today’s society.

This was a point he made clear during a two-day conference called the “Workshop on Narcotics: Problems and Solutions of this Global Issue” back in 2016. This conference, which was organized by the Pontifical Academy for the Sciences, provided information for and addressed issues surrounding:

  • an overview of different kinds of substances
  • drug use prevention methods, such as education
  • the impact of drug use and abuse on a global scale
  • the risks of both prescription and recreational drug use
  • a brief history of drug use from a cultural/geopolitical perspective

Pope Francis spoke to participants, stating that more support should be offered and more rehabilitation programs should be made available for individuals struggling with addiction. He went on to say:

“Drugs are a wound in our society, wound that traps many people in the networks. They are victims have lost their freedom to fall into slavery; slavery of a dependency we can call ‘chemistry.’”


A Loss of Freedom

During the Workshop on Narcotics, Pope Francis reaffirmed his long-standing belief that those who struggle with drug addiction have “lost their freedom” in “a new form of slavery.” The Pope also cited “the absence of a family, social pressure, propaganda from traffickers, [and] the desire to live new experiences” as potential causes of drug addiction. During his address of this issue, he said:

“[E]very addicted person brings with them a distinct personal history, which should be listened to, understood, loved, and, where possible, cured and purified. We cannot fall into the injustice of classifying them as if they were objects or broken junk; rather, every person should be valued and appreciated in their dignity in order to be cured. They continue to have, more than ever, dignity as persons and children of God.”


The Church’s View on Drugs and His Holiness’ Call to Action

The most needy of our brothers and sisters, who seemingly have nothing to give, offer us treasure

Pope Francis went on to discuss the harms of both supply and demand as they pertain to addictive narcotics like opioids. He pointed out during his speech that the supply of drugs is just as much an “important part of organized crime” as purchasing and consuming them. So, the best way to halt the progression of the opioid epidemic is to, in a sense, cut the supply with better implementation of education, prevention programs, social programs, and family support.

He also insisted that rehabilitation plays an essential role in the ongoing battle against drug addiction, and urged Federal agencies to assist. Many policies that are enforced today reflect what Pope Francis calls “the ineptitude of governments”— in other words, they go against addiction rehabilitation efforts instead of supporting them. These policies make addiction recovery difficult or almost impossible for many people and, as the Pope pointed out, could result in “the [addicted] victims [becoming] re-victimized.”

The Pope believes that the government’s influence could turn the tide if, instead of combatting those who use drugs, it shifted its focus and preventative measures towards the organized crime and corrupted businesses that drive drug trafficking and dealing. During his discussion of this during the conference, Pope Francis reminded the attendees that the whole purpose of ending the opioid crisis and other ongoing drug epidemics is to “[defend] the human family [and defend] the youth [and] children.”


Compassion and Understanding from The Holy Father Himself

Even before the Workshop on Narcotics, Pope Francis has warned the public time and time again not to give in to the “injustice of classifying the drug addict as if they were an object or a broken mess.” Instead, they should be treated for what they are: victims of a disease that need our help.

“Integral human formation is the priority. It gives people the possibility to possess the instruments of discernment, with which they are able to discern various options and help others. This formation is principally oriented to the most vulnerable of a society, such as children and young people, but which is also usefully extended to families and those who suffer any type of marginalization.”


Regain Your Sobriety and Build Your Faith with Road to Freedom

In every address of this issue so far, Pope Francis has reminded us that each person struggling with substance abuse has “a different personal history which must be heard, understood, loved and, as soon as possible, healed and purified”— and everyone at Road to Freedom shares this view. Our staff of trained and compassionate professionals has years of experience helping patients through every stage of the addiction recovery process. If you or someone you care about is struggling with an addiction, please call Road to Freedom at 844-402-3605. Everyone is rooting for your health and sobriety— even the Holy Father himself.

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