At one time, the consumption rates of prescription opioids were overlooked or considered harmless. Today, opioid misuse and addiction have become one of the nation’s most prominent medical crises in history. In fact, opioid overdose has been labeled the leading cause of accidental death in America, surpassing car accidents and gun violence. With the death toll rising, many businesses and non-profit organizations are stepping up to face the opioid crisis head-on. This includes church leaders, many of whom have contributed time, resources, and unconditional support to those affected by the opioid crisis so far.
The Opioid Epidemic’s Toll on America So Far
The opioid crisis and overdose epidemic has reached an all-time high in America in recent years. People under 50 years old are dying at an alarming rate due to opioid and heroin overdose— so much so, in fact, that the nation’s overall life expectancy among both men and women has decreased over the last three years. In as recent as 2015, more than 33,000 Americans died as a result of an opioid overdose. This is equal to more than three and a half times the number of people collectively injured or killed in the September 11th attack.
A significant portion of the opioid crisis points back to the rise in prescription painkiller consumption over the past decade or so. While the use of illicit opioids like heroin undoubtedly play a part in the overdose epidemic, the majority of overdose cases seem to involve prescription opioid abuse. Additionally, drug abuse of this nature is equally prominent in both rural and urban areas. In fact, the number young adults aged 18 to 25 who died of an opioid overdose in rural areas alone has more than quadrupled between 1999 and 2015. It was around this time that this wide-spread drug abuse became a problem of epidemic proportions.
The White House’s Response So Far
The U.S. Surgeon General was among the first to raise more awareness about opioid drug abuse and overdose rates. In August 2016, Dr. Vivek Murthy sent out a letter to every practicing doctor in America. In this open letter, he warned physicians everywhere to be more careful about prescribing opioids to help combat the growing crisis. He wrote:
“I am asking for your help to solve an urgent health crisis facing America: the opioid epidemic. Everywhere I travel, I see communities devastated by opioid overdoses…
It is important to recognize that we arrived at this place on a path paved with good intentions. Nearly two decades ago, we were encouraged to be more aggressive about treating pain… Many of us were even taught – incorrectly – that opioids are not addictive when prescribed for legitimate pain. …Now, nearly 2 million people in America have a prescription opioid use disorder, contributing to increased heroin use and the spread of HIV and hepatitis C…”
The letter continues with a plea to step up and take action against the epidemic. Roughly two months after Murthy addressed America’s doctors (and the general public) with his letter, President Donald J. Trump finally declared the opioid crisis a national health emergency.
Churches Everywhere Are Challenging the Crisis
After the Surgeon General’s letter and Trump’s subsequent national emergency announcement, many people began to take a stand against the opioid crisis—not just doctors. America’s churches, in particular, have given significant contributions to the fight. Today, many church leaders are taking the initiative to offer hope and better serve their communities in response to the crisis. In fact, several churches around the country have already joined forces with organizations like Celebrate Recovery and Narcotics Anonymous. Together with these and other groups that focus on addiction recovery, churches have begun to open their doors to those in need of support during the height of the opioid crisis.
One Harbor Church
One church has made a notable impact in the fight against the opioid crisis so far. One Harbor Church, a house of God with three locations in North Carolina and nationwide reach, has stepped up to offer help to those struggling with addiction. The pastor of One Harbor, Donnie Griggs, believes that the opioid crisis can only truly end if the church and state work together to help the American people. With the government having already declared the opioid crisis a national emergency, Griggs has openly encouraged the church community to step up as well.
As a man who understands firsthand what opioid addiction can do to a loved one, Griggs has not shied away from speaking out against the over-prescription and increased consumption of prescription painkillers that have so profoundly impacted the nation— and his own community. Since Murthy’s open letter and Trump’s declaration of emergency, One Harbor Church has become one of the first churches to openly combat the epidemic through impassioned sermons, addiction education, prevention techniques, and other resources. Today, it stands tall as a place of worship, a powerhouse of public truth, and a haven for people who have been affected by the crisis. Thankfully, other churches across the country are following suit.
Operation Blessing and the Spread of Treatment Programs
Across the country churches are taking on the cause of caring for those suffering from addiction. More often we’re seeing churches band together in initiatives to provide the specialized treatment needed for this community. One such new program is New Life, which is an outreach program of Operation Blessing. Based out of the New England area, their mission is to fight poverty and addiction by embracing people and families in need with compassion, offering helping and hope for changed lives. Their two year plan is to develop their faith-based model program that helps students to create and implement an individual plan that supports their goal of long term recovery, so that it can be reproduced in other locations. Programs like this are an inspirational step to stymie the opioid epidemic. Now, it’s time we all step up to help abolish this epidemic.
Road to Freedom and The Treatment Center sponsors our own outreach to the community through our weekly Recovery Church service. Find out more about our church services for the recovery community in South Florida.
Set Out on a Sober Path with Help from Road to Freedom
As the opioid crisis continues to affect thousands, the support from churches across the country continues to grow and expand. The Christian church has become a key player in the battle against opioid addiction, offering up time, resources, and hope to strengthen the sense of community that America desperately needs. If we hope to end the opioid crisis for good, it starts with unconditional love and support. At Road to Freedom, we pride ourselves on our faith-based recovery program, which has helped thousands regain their sobriety, their faith, and their sense of belonging in the wake of the opioid crisis. For more information about what Road to Freedom has to offer, please call us at (844)402-3605.