opinion | “We’re all kind of addicted”

I wanted to address that. 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 dependencies 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 mind, body and spirit.”

What makes us vulnerable to all kinds of addictions in our culture?

It’s hard to estimate how much more likely we are to addictions today than in any previous generation. Addiction has been around for a long time. I think the current crisis we’re in is perhaps a lot more obvious because of the potency of the substances we’re dealing with. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Newer versions of some synthetic opioids are emerging that are 50 to 100 times more potent than fentanyl. So I think the deaths and the overdoses are starting to look us in the face.

But how did we get here? That’s a big question. It definitely has something to do with the fragmentation of communities here and always thinking that there is something better somewhere else. I think that really disturbs our sense of peace, joy and gratitude. It is perhaps easy to point to social media as a driver of this type of dissatisfaction with our own lives. But there certainly seems to be something on a broader societal level that might be pushing us more and more in this direction.

Are there any specific actions that you think would help address this crisis?

They can’t help but talk about the war on drugs and the criminalization of drug use and addiction, particularly in communities more than others. We’re seeing that change at least here in Nashville. Criminalization really hasn’t been helpful at all, to say the least. If someone with substance abuse problems is found on the street, they need to be referred to help, not jail.

I also think you need to talk about how much we pay people for lower level jobs. Are we paying a fair wage or are we stressing people out and contributing significantly to the fragmentation in these communities by treating people?

My newsletter deals with questions of faith in private and public life. I am curious: What role could faith communities play in this crisis?

There is actually a major effort in Tennessee led by Monty Burks, who is with the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and his work revolves around the faith-based initiative. He and his team have built a network of recovery communities. He has worked with communities to help them understand what addiction is and how to deal with it, how to understand that relapse is not a moral failure but something to be expected, and how to deal with it.

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