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Gospel Hope for an Epidemic

Image by Emilian Danaila from Pixabay


by: Mark Shaw

An incredible number of 64,000 accidental overdose deaths occurred in 2016 in the United States of America. To put that number of souls in perspective, more American people accidentally died in one year due to addictive behavior than died in the entire Vietnam War. Another startling statistic is that the estimated cost since 2001 of the opioid epidemic alone (not including other drugs) is one trillion dollars and it is estimated to cost $500 billion in the next 3 years.[1] What many view as a hopeless problem draining society should be viewed by the Church body across the world as an enormous opportunity to point people to the hope of the gospel and Jesus Christ.

Government Solutions
One so-called solution that is gaining popularity is called “medication-assisted treatment” (MAT). Methadone is the most common drug utilized as an opiate/opioid replacement and is usually provided through a treatment clinic and prescribed by a physician. Methadone is a schedule II narcotic with a high abuse potential due to its long-acting pain relief properties. There is also a high physical dependence liability and very painful, long-standing withdrawal effects when one decides to detox from the medication. Communities like Lafayette, Indiana are starting methadone clinics to battle the opioid epidemic, arguing that methadone as a replacement for heroin and prescription opioids is a viable solution to reduce the accidental overdose rate.

My Firsthand Experience
Many years ago, I worked as the director of a methadone clinic and saw firsthand how inept that so-called solution truly is because it lacks heart change. During my tenure there, I counseled only two persons out of several hundred (less than 1%) who successfully detoxed off of the drug and maintained sobriety for at least six months afterward. I also know these clients did not hear an eternal, gospel-centered message in this program. They weren’t taught about the idolatry of addiction, so they were never led to confess their sin, cry out for forgiveness, repent, and place their faith in Christ for eternal life (Prov. 28:13).

The positives were that methadone intake was controlled by the clinic (though they could buy it from the friends they met waiting in line at the clinic). Drug tests were a deterrent to some extent, keeping a few clients motivated not to use illicit drugs, though that was not the norm. As a medication, methadone covered up opioid highs. If an addict tried to use heroin, he would not feel it. Counseling was offered, though it was not biblical.

The negatives were that methadone did not prevent the client from experiencing highs from marijuana, benzodiazepines, cocaine, amphetamines, and the like. Because the usual high from an opioid drug could not be experienced while on methadone, most addicts used other non-opioid drugs to feel a high since using opioids was a waste of money, time, and energy. It was not uncommon to have clients overdose and die while on the program because their physical hearts could not withstand the power of cocaine and marijuana mixed with methadone.

Detoxing off of methadone is extremely painful due to the longer half-life of the drug, resulting in effects that last much longer than withdrawing from an opioid. The plan of the majority of methadone clinics is to keep the addicted person on the drug for the remainder of his or her lifetime. Detox is not really encouraged, which makes sense because that is consistent with the beliefs of the addiction counseling world at-large. If addiction is a life-long, progressive, and fatal disease that is never overcome, then here is the thinking: “You are an addict; you will be an addict; methadone is your solution; why detox?” However, when counseling many addicts at the methadone clinic, I used a heaven – hell – purgatory analogy to encourage detox. Their treatment at the methadone clinic was likened to the concept of “purgatory.”[2] Being on methadone was better than the “hell” of living on the streets shooting heroin, but it was worse than the freedom of “heaven” which I likened to being drug-free (which pales in comparison to the real heaven, please understand). My point was that methadone did not offer true freedom, so I would encourage them to detox. Few did.

With that background experience and with very few viable secular solutions on the horizon, I have become much more passionate about training and mobilizing the local church for the work of ministry through biblical addiction counseling. I have seen many deaths due to addiction. I have observed incorrect theology taught dogmatically in most treatment and rehabilitation programs where participants are pointed away from the local church, away from the true gospel, and away from Christ (Col. 2:8). These things grieve me. Secular treatment programs are not neutral since 93% of them embrace by “faith” (not by science) the disease concept of addiction and its self-help ideas. At the end of the day, this is an issue of belief, not an issue of fact (though they present their beliefs as factual and scientific).

Two Spiritual Approaches
Behavioral change (which is the only goal of secular rehabilitation programs) might prolong physical life temporarily, but it usually is short-lived as many revert back to their drug of choice. Christians should be concerned with more than just sobriety as a goal! There will be plenty of clean and sober souls in hell. I’m sure my readers already know this, but Jesus Christ is the only answer, the gospel is the only true message, and the local church is the only community who has what the addict is longing for – enduring hope, eternal purpose, and genuine relationships! I would much rather send an addicted person to a local church with solid biblical counseling than to a secular rehabilitation program. Both programs will teach the addict that addiction is a spiritual problem! One will teach that any god will do and label that god of personal choice a “Higher Power.”

The other will teach that only Jesus Christ the Lord will do (John 14:6) and that He is sufficient for transformation in this life (Rom. 12:1-2) and promises everlasting life to all who believe (John 3:16). These are significant distinctions in the two spiritual approaches! Church, we have an urgent and incredible opportunity here to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) to hurting souls struggling with sins of an addictive nature.

Local Church Training
Thankfully, there are some very good gospel-centered, biblically-based programs that exist. I have been systematically networking with faith-based addictions outreach programs across the country for many years, and I am eager to share with you what I am seeing. We have re-launched a 10-year-old ministry called Truth in Love Ministries so that I can be available to train local churches to creatively reach out to addicts and their families. Visit our website at www.histruthinlove.org to see upcoming training dates in your area or to contact us about providing training in your church. With the world crying out for help and believing that addiction is a hopeless, lifelong disease, the Church has an opportunity to glorify the God of the universe, who is still on His throne and transforming lives by His amazing grace.

Questions for Reflection
What is your church doing to reach the addicted community? How is a biblical approach to addiction different than a worldly one? Why does it matter?

[1] Greg Allen, “Cost of U.S. Opioid Epidemic Since 2001 is $1 Trillion and Climbing,” last modified February 13, 2018. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/02/13/585199746/cost-of-u-s-opioid-epidemic
[2] This is NOT an endorsement of belief in purgatory but an analogy. I do not believe purgatory is a real place because I do not find it ANYWHERE in the pages of the Scriptures!

TAC Staff Note: This article was originally published at BiblicalCounselingCoalition.org on March 26, 2018. View the original post here.

Click to Tweet: What is your church doing to reach the addicted community? https://ctt.ec/iNf7o+ #BiblicalHelp4Addiction</a

About Mark Shaw

Mark E. Shaw (D. Min.) is President and Founder of Truth in Love Ministries and The Addiction Connection. He resides in Florence, KY, with his wife and children. The author of 20 publications including The Heart of Addiction, Addiction-Proof Parenting, and Divine Intervention: Hope and Help for Families of Addicts, Mark enjoys speaking, training, and traveling for the purpose of encouraging and edifying local churches in their outreach to hurting souls.

Follow Mark on: Facebook  and  Twitter

 

“It pleases me to please me.”

by Oliver Underwood

Why is addiction increasingly prevalent?

Soak This In!

While reading these stats1 you will see points marked in bold font. Do not think numbers! Instead, think fathers, mothers, grandparents, and children.

  • Percent of adults aged 18 and over who currently smoke cigarettes: 15.8% (51 Million)
  • Percent of adults aged 18 and over who had at least one heavy drinking day (five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women) in the past year: 25.0% (3 Million)
  • Number of alcoholic liver disease deaths: 19,388
  • Number of alcohol-induced deaths, excluding accidents and homicides: 30,722
  • Percent of persons aged 12 years and over with any illicit drug use in the past month: 10.1% (2015) (4 Million)
  • Percent of persons aged 12 years and over with any nonmedical use of a psychotherapeutic drug in the past month: 2.4% (2015) (7 million)
  • In 2015 the National Institutes of Health spent $30 billion for Mental Health and Addictions research.

I guess that it would be fair to say that America’s researchers had an extensive pool of addiction subjects from which to draw. It is becoming unmistakably clear to our nation that something else needs to happen in order to assist in our nationwide/worldwide epidemic of addiction.

What is needed?

Is it further research? Is it more counter addiction pharmaceuticals (oxymoron)? Is it increasing taxes to glean from the community in order to assist these so-called diseased individuals by opening more secular treatment centers?

The Word of God has the answer that we are all looking for. 2 Timothy 3:1-7 speaks of what will happen in the last days. Paul tells us that difficult times will come not because of our surroundings or a widespread disease; but because men will become lovers of everything but God.

The root word that Paul uses throughout the text is “philos.” He attaches this word to many objects that are related to selfish motives. This word means to be actively fond of or a companion of someone or something. Here Paul writes that men will be actively fond and companions of themselves, actively fond and companions of wealth and gain, and finally actively fond and a companion of pleasure. Paul not only states that mankind will not just gravitate towards these things, but that they will do so with the approach of opposition toward God. Paul uses the word “mallon” of “philos” toward God. This word illustrates a picture of leaving something at the wayside and pressing toward something that is more personally desired.

This is our one and only problem. It’s as simple as that. No need for medication. No need for scientific methodology. No need for further investigation resulting in further depravity.

In Matthew 6:24 Jesus tells us the complete sufficient truth that No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (NASB) The Lord gives us a clear answer in 1 John 1:9 (NIV): If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Click on the link below to download a pdf that shows the progression of addiction in the United States. I include it in hopes of educating the public with the approach America’s most prestigious scientists and doctors have taken. It is important to say that I do not agree with the treatments included in the link.
Progression of Addiction in the US

“Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul. I know, because I turned down the first offer often enough and held out for the fifty cents.” -M. Monroe

“Many a man thinks he is buying pleasure, when he is really selling himself to it.” -Benjamin Franklin

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” -2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV

[1] Statistics gathered from: www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/smoking.htm, www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/alcohol.htm, www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/drug-use-illegal.htm

For resources on a biblical approach to addiction, go to: The Addiction Connection.

Click to Tweet: This illustrates a picture of leaving something at the wayside and pressing toward something that is more personally desired. https://ctt.ec/mesaI+ #biblicalhelp4addiciton

NOTE: This article first appeared on Through the Lens of Scripture, January 18, 2018.

Oliver Underwood, and his precious wife Lisa, are ministering on the front lines of the BIBLICAL battle against all types of addictions. Lisa and Oliver are blessed to parent three children: Christian, an eight year old boy; Evan, a sic year old boy; and Kiley, a three year old little girl (going on 19!).

Oliver struggled for (xxx years/months) with meth, heroin, and alcohol addition, which was really on the the tip of the iceberg of what was really going on in his heart.

By God’s grace, Oliver’s life was transformed, and now God is allowing him to comfort others with the same comfort Oliver was given. Now, Oliver and his family are richly blessed to be a part of a ministry. Oliver serves as the Executive Director of “The Mission House,” a biblically-based men’s program helping men enslaved by sin (addictions). The work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the men at the “The Mission House” helps them learn God’s instructions for living and strengthen them to choose a life of freedom in Christ.

For more information about “The Mission House” go to: https://themissionhouse.info/

Great Advice for ALL Parents

A note from Shirley Crowder:

One of the wonderful perks of being part of a Christian publishing family is all the great Christian authors I get to meet. When I saw this blog by my friend Sheryl Holmes posted on her site earlier this year, I knew I had to share it here on The Addiction Connection blog.

Sheryl’s ministry reminds me of Psalm 34:18-19:

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.

I am grateful the Lord is strengthening and enabling Sheryl to reach out and help other parents.


Where the Drug Deals Go Down …

by Sheryl Holmes

I always assumed the drug deals to go down in a dark alley, a shady neighborhood, in a rundown complex, and of course, in the big cities.

But I was wrong, in part.

Sure – some of them do certainly happen in those places… but there’s a lot that do not.

I never knew, until after my son overdosed and we had a look at his phone.

Two years prior to his death, he was introduced to his first substance by another athlete at school; typical, and hey – experimentation in high school has been going on for years and years – not one generation has been able to avoid it; sad, but true.

Two years after that first introduction, was another story.

Where the drug deals go down may surprise you… it did me; I was angered when I found out.

“How did I not see?”

thRCO12E63
Like an innocent sheep with the wool pulled over my eyes… I was dumb, unaware, and never saw the wolves at my back door – literally.

Cars would pull up alongside the driveway for a few minutes every so often, every few – 5 days or so, and when we asked, “Who was that?” My son would say, “Just a friend who stopped by to say Hi!” And we believed him, oh so naïve.

Exchanges on the bike trails… Oh wait!  I had seen my son’s car sitting there in the  parking lot several times before, odd afternoons and early evenings – and he said, “I was just chillin”  – meeting up with “some friends”… and I believed him, oh so naïve.

The friend card  –  (*sigh*)  – we all want our kids to have friends, so we don’t question too much, and we give them space (assuming that all the friends are good friends) … and we relax when they are just chillin’ with a friend… at least I did, oh so naïve.

Little did I know… there were deals being made, and drops going on …

in the mailbox,

in the woods,

by the dumpster…

just yards and a few miles away from home, oh so naïve.

Parents:

Where the drug deals go down (?) is right in your backyards, in your neighborhoods, and on your sport teams in your idyllic little towns; the wolves are at your back door… literally.

Post my son’s death, one source told me, “Oh, I had people drop right at the front door while my parents where watching T.V. – they never suspected a thing!”

My only point to this post today is DON’T BE NAIVE my fellow parents!

My hindsight is 20/20, just as the saying goes.

Parents:

Take note when your kids’ friends “stop by” in a habitual manner, every so often, and don’t stay very long at the end of your driveways, in parking lots, or alongside your house, or your neighbors house. Take note when your son or daughter often slips out of the house for a few minutes for no apparent reason, no matter the time of day. Note the patterns, question the nonchalant-ness, know who these friends are…

Trust me:

You don’t want to be caught unaware, where the drug deals go down.

Click to Tweet: You don’t want to be caught unaware, where the drug deals go down. -Sheryl Holmes https://ctt.ec/106fF+ ‎ #20/20 hindsight

Meet Sheryl Holmes

Follow her at: In the Battle

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