“I am so concerned about the welfare of my grandchildren. Their neighborhood has been overrun by drug-dealers. You cannot take the children to the park in the evening because of the danger of deals going down”, voiced Jan, a friend of mine.
Sound familiar? This is not an inner-city neighborhood, but one of the most affluent in Naperville. Her concerns are echoed throughout the country.
This is “Red Ribbon Week”, an awareness crusade launched by this country’s oldest and largest drug prevention campaign. It’s not just the societal dangers of illegal activity that concerns individuals, it’s also the health of children and teens at risk.
According to MedicineNet.com, “Depending on how the body takes in and processes each kind of drug, substances of abuse can affect virtually every one of the body's systems. Examples of this include permanent brain damage associated with inhalants, heart attack or stroke from stimulants, halted breathing from sedatives. Any of these problems can result in death.”
“Red Ribbon Week” observes the tragic murder of Enrique (Kiki) Camarena, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent who was killed in 1985. Today, organizations and schools all over the United States wear red ribbons in the last week of October in observance of his murder.
According to drugsrdumb.com, “By wearing a red ribbon during the last week in October, Americans demonstrate their ardent opposition to drugs. They pay homage not only to Special Agent Camarena, but to all men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in support of our nation’s struggle against drug trafficking and abuse.”
Recently, NBC News reported an alarming increase in abuse of prescription drugs and heroin use among suburban teens. Rafael Lemaitre, of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy stated, “It’s hard to talk about the heroin program without talking about the prescription drug problem.”
NBC News reported that out of dozens of interviews with former heroin addicts, nearly all reported getting hooked the same way. They started with prescription drugs. Some originally began with a doctor’s prescription to alleviate pain and some were purchased from friends. When they became too addicted to afford the number of pills they needed to get high, they switched to a cheaper fix - heroin.
Dr. Ileana Arias, principal deputy director at the Center for Disease Control stated, “This is an epidemic. And at CDC, we do not use the word epidemic very lightly. The problem is, unfortunately, a wicked problem.”
Since it is difficult to create any clarity for young people on the difference between “bad” and “good” drugs in a society, there is also a growing concern about over-prescription, (over-selling of legal drugs to adults). Underlying all of this is the message that drugs can help you solve any problem – mental or physical. In fact, many studies indicate that drugs often only manage or mitigate (but do not end) pain and that many of them have significant side effects, including nausea, weakness, vomiting, and constipation among others, according to Health Magazine.
How can we help those in pain to find permanent relief, and to find it in a way that is also free of the potential for drug abuse? Many individuals have begun seeking more natural approaches to pain relief, including preventive exercise, yoga, herbal therapy, deep breathing and massage. And, these studies show that these approaches are helping people find relief without drugs. Studies also show that many people bring prayer and spirituality into their pain-relief therapies.
A number of grass-roots organizations, churches and individuals believe that prayer can also offer an answer to illegal or any type of drug abuse. For decades, Alcoholics Anonymous has been helping people find freedom from addictions by turning to a “higher power”.
Prayforthechildren.org is a group of people specially committed to keeping kids drug-free and safe. Their aim is to offer hope to those struggling with drug use or addiction. According to their website, they feel “…hope is prayer….the power of prayer is unequaled. And, when many prayers are raised up for children, miracles happen and changes occur.”
If gaining an understanding of God – a “higher power” – is effective in helping people address the mental despair they feel and end addiction, it seems logical that it can also help people find freedom from pain.
At one time people brought to Jesus a man crippled with a painful palsy. He was unable to walk or move freely. Instead of offering him the medication of the day or even condemning the plight he was in, Jesus’ compassion and prayer healed the man and he went on his way – walking and moving freely (see Mark 2: 1-12). This kind of healing prayer is still being practiced today.
Prayer offers all of us, children and adults, a way out of pain - mental or physical - through a method that also avoids the possibility of addiction to and misuse of drugs.