Christians Respond to Opioid Abuse Crisis


In the wake of an opioid abuse prevention measure passed by Congress, Christians are finding new ways to combat the crisis alongside the new bill.

Gary Robbins, pastor of East Williamson Baptist in West Virginia, described opioid abuse as a widespread problem that needs to be addressed.

“Just about everywhere I have been it has been a problem. It has hit everywhere,” Robbins said.

Opioids are medications that relieve pain by reducing the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain. One medication classified as an opioid is morphine, which is commonly synthesized and used to make heroin, one of the most addictive drugs available, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, passed by the Senate July 13 and by the House a week earlier, will increase funding for abuse programs and make medicine that fights addiction more readily available.

The act will “address the destructive side of opioid use” and provide doctors and patients with more resources, said Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“There is something in this law for every kind of opioid user,” Duke said. “The person in pain will have more resources brought to bear to ensure the responsible and appropriate use of these drugs to deal with their legitimate needs.

“Others who use these drugs to mask the effects of emotional, psychological or spiritual pain will find more resources available to help them deal with their real needs,” Duke said.

Opioid abusers also will face more obstacles when trying to obtain drugs, he noted, saying the law “will serve us all well.”

“Millions of people have been helped by the pain-relieving capacity of opioids,” Duke said. “Yet, for many of those millions, one form of pain has been replaced by the pain and destruction of addiction. Opioid addiction is real and deadly…. [P]eople struggling with addiction to a drug that at one time was a great help will soon have more assistance in reclaiming their lives.”

Locally, providing food and transportation are two avenues Gary Robbins uses to minister and counsel opioid abusers in his town.

“We go in with counseling, we try to encourage them, and we try to show them what type of effect it is having on their children and on society. We try to give them the whole nine yards,” the pastor said.

The West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists adopted a resolution in 2015 urging “every faithful Christian” to “bear a definite responsibility to achieve a successful solution” to the problem of drug abuse. Messengers pledged “total abstention” from alcohol and illegal drugs and promised never to abuse prescription medication.

Building off the resolution, Robbins believes the true answer to the opioid crisis lies within the power of the Gospel.

“Our only hope is a changed heart. God is going to have to do that. We just trust in the Lord. One of the things our churches are going to have to get over is condemning those people and treating them like they can’t be reached. We don’t have to agree with it, but we got to love them.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Daniel Woodman