By / Mar 18

Free, downloadable bulletin insert for use by your church on Substance Abuse Prevention Sunday.

To see additional SBC event dates, visit sbc.net/calendar.

By / Mar 5

Free, downloadable bulletin insert for use by your church on Substance Abuse Prevention Sunday.

To see additional SBC event dates, visit sbc.net/calendar.

By / Feb 5

As a public health professor, Christ-follower, and substance abuse researcher, my vocation demands that I consistently reflect upon the intersection of faith and efforts that are intended to protect the needs of the population. As the prevalence and incidence rates of a variety of addictive behaviors continue to increase, the stigmatization and misconceptions associated with these behaviors continue to rise as well. 

Addiction, whether related to substance abuse or not, can present itself in many forms. An individual may be struggling with prescription drug use, the use of illicit substances, sexual addiction, overeating, or tobacco and alcohol use, just to name a few. The repercussions of engaging in these behaviors often results in devastation for both the user and their loved ones. 

What is addiction? 

Oftentimes, the general populace may not think of addiction as a disease. While there is a spiritual component, in actuality, it is a disease that is complex and chronic in nature and affects the functioning of both the brain and body. The most common symptoms of addiction are severe loss of control, continued use despite the negative consequences associated with the behavior, a preoccupation with using, failed attempts to quit, increasing tolerance, and withdrawal. There are many evidence-based programs studying best practices in substance abuse prevention and control, but there is still much work that needs to be done.   

As the addiction field has matured, it has tried to integrate conflicting theories and approaches to treatment, as well as incorporate relevant evidence-based practices into a single, comprehensive model. Many positive changes have emerged, and a new view of motivation and associated strategies to promote positive behavior change have been developed. This trend in focusing on motivation, coupled with a shift away from labelling individuals as addicts, places an emphasis on examining the determinants and mechanisms of personal change. 

Researchers and clinicians have become better equipped to apply and facilitate changes in an individual’s unhealthy or maladaptive behavior. With that being said, as Christians, we must remember that helping those who struggle with addiction is not the sole responsibility of a mental health professional. We must keep in mind that the Christian life is also about bearing burdens well. We are not meant to struggle alone (Gal. 6:2). 

The current state of the problem: Incidence and prevalence rates

Currently, there are an estimated 40 million Americans aged 12 and older who engage in substance abuse behavior or are addicted to nicotine, alcohol, or other drugs. That’s more than 1 out of every 7 people. This is more than the number of Americans who suffer from heart conditions (27 million), diabetes (26 million), or cancer (19 million). 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the 2019 Monitoring the Future Survey Results, the use of illicit drugs among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders remained steady at 38%. The use of marijuana has increased in lower grades, when compared to 12th graders, but the prevalence of marijuana use also remains steady. Prescription drug misuse has declined in the adolescent population in recent years, but use among adults continues to be a major public health concern. Alcohol use continues to decline among middle and highschoolers. Lastly, we have made progress in regards to addressing tobacco and nicotine use among adolescents, but the recent popularity in vaping behavior has threatened these efforts.  

Addiction, stigmatization, and a call to the Christian

Although the word “stigma” is widely used, there is some variability in how it is defined. Stigma, especially in regards to addictive behaviors, occurs when negative attitudes toward those suffering from substance use disorders arise on account of the disorder itself, and are likely to impact physical, psychological, social, or professional wellbeing. This stigmatization, manifesting as preconceived judgments and misconceptions, often results in the exclusion of those suffering from addiction. 

Being present in the lives of those who struggle with addiction provides us with a beautiful opportunity to love people in the midst of their affliction and point them to the One in whom true satisfaction is found.

Stigmatization is an issue we must work through both personally and as a society, but we cannot allow it to be a barrier to gospel ministry. Regardless of how you may perceive the culpability of those who suffer from addiction, Christians should continue to affirm their dignity as image-bearers of God (Gen. 1:26-28). Addicts may be resorting to the things of this world to satisfy, but we know they were made for so much more. We know, and are reassured, that Christ is the only one who will satisfy (Heb. 6:19). Being intentional in caring for this hurting population can provide a God-glorifying opportunity to share the gospel as we strive to minister with love, grace, and compassion. 

Caring for those who are suffering from addiction is not an endorsement of sin, gluttony, or the use of illicit substances. When Jesus called us to care “for the least of these” (Matt. 25:40), I believe it includes those who are in destitute and destructive situations. Being present in the lives of those who struggle with addiction provides us with a beautiful opportunity to love people in the midst of their affliction and point them to the One in whom true satisfaction is found. It allows us to help those in sin turn to the freedom that is found in Christ, walking alongside them on a difficult road. As an individual who has had the privilege of working with addictive populations and hearing their stories, I would urge Christians to seek out opportunities to serve this population as a means of living out the Great Commission. 

By / Mar 14
By / Mar 13

This weekend many churches in America will observe Substance Abuse Prevention Sunday. In preparation for the observance, here are five facts you should know about the most commonly abused substances in America.

1. Alcohol is the most commonly abused – and most deadly — drug in America —  In 2012, 71 percent of Americans reported they drank in the past year; 56.3 percent reported that they drank in the past month. An estimated 17 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder — a medical term that includes both alcoholism and harmful drinking that does not reach the level of dependence. Each year in the U.S., nearly 80,000 people die from alcohol-related causes, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in our country.

2. Binge Drinking is common – especially among the elderly and the wealthy. – Binge drinking is the consumption of alcoholic beverages with the primary intention of becoming intoxicated in a short period of time. One in six U.S. adults binge drinks about four times a month, consuming about eight drinks per binge. While binge drinking is more common among young adults aged 18–34 years, binge drinkers aged 65 years and older report binge drinking more often — an average of five to six times a month. Binge drinking is also more common among those with household incomes of $75,000 or more than among those with lower incomes.

3. Alcohol abuse is a primary factor in injuries, assaults, and deaths among adolescents — More adolescents drink alcohol than smoke cigarettes or use marijuana. By age 15, more than 50 percent of teens have had at least one drink and the effects are frequently detrimental. Researchers estimate that each year 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes; 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking; and 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.

4. After alcohol, marijuana has the highest rate of dependence or abuse among all drugs — In 2012, 4.3 million Americans met clinical criteria for dependence or abuse of marijuana in the past year—more than twice the number for dependence/abuse of prescription pain relievers (2.1 million) and four times the number for dependence/abuse of cocaine (1.1 million).

5. Most drug overdose deaths were caused by prescription drugs —Nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses are caused by prescription painkillers—also called opioid pain relievers. The unprecedented rise in overdose deaths in the U.S. parallels a 300 percent increase since 1999 in the sale of these strong painkillers. These drugs were involved in 14,800 overdose deaths in 2008, more than cocaine and heroin combined.