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Drug abuse: A cause for concern, a cause for prayer

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By Ken Bradford

The Bedford Christian fellowship wishes everyone in our community to recognize that drug abuse remains a serious problem in Bedford and across the nation.

The local statistics are eye-opening. The 2004 Bedford City/County Youth Survey Report showed 12.1 percent of Bedford County Public School District students used marijuana and another 7.6 percent used other illegal drugs. By the time they reached 12th grade, 44.8 percent of Bedford County Public School students had tried marijuana and 7.6 percent had tried cocaine. Over 21 percent of 8th graders have tried inhalants.

As worrisome as these local numbers are, national drug abuse statistics are even more troubling. In 2006, an estimated 20.4 million Americans aged 12 or older reported using illicit drugs including marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, or prescription-type psychotherapeutic drugs.

We must realize that the consequences of drug abuse are far-reaching. For instance, studies by the National Institute on Drug Abuse show that HIV transmission can result from the sharing of needles and other injection paraphernalia. However, people who simply use illegal drugs that don’t involve a needle and syringe can also be at risk for HIV because their judgment is impaired, which sets the stage for risky sexual behaviors.

Besides increasing their risk of HIV infection, people who take illegal drugs also put themselves and others at risk for hepatitis, tuberculosis, and a number of sexually transmitted diseases. Those who inject drugs are also susceptible to skin infections and bacterial and viral infections which can lead to serious health problems. What is really frightening is that some of these adverse health effects can occur after just one use of illegal drugs.

Many people believe that illegal drug use isn’t their problem because they don’t know anybody who uses them. Others believe that drug abuse is only the drug user’s problem, that illicit drug use is a so-called “victimless crime.” People who think that way are simply wrong. Drug abuse impacts every single one of us in many ways. It leads to broken homes and devastated lives in our community. People using drugs often neglect, abuse, or abandon their children. Illegal drug use leads to increased crime and violence that can affect entire neighborhoods, even in Bedford.

Clearly, our community and our society pay a tremendous cost for illegal drug use. If we look at just the economic costs related to drug abuse, the numbers are staggering. Those costs can be divided into three major components: health care, lost productivity, and other impacts (primarily costs related to criminal justice). In 2002 the Office of National Drug Control Policy estimated the direct and indirect societal costs for drug abuse to be $180.9 billion! Direct health care costs accounted for $15.8 billion of that cost. Lost productivity accounted for $128.6 billion.

Clearly, every family is vulnerable to one of its member succumbing to drug use. Just as clearly, all of us share in the costs to our society of illegal drug use. That is why each of us must make a commitment to reduce drug abuse and to not mistakenly assume that illegal drugs are someone else’s concern.

The Bedford Christian Fellowship believes that those who abuse drugs do not set out to come under the control of drugs. They don’t set out to get HIV, or to suffer any of the other health consequence of illicit drug use, or to cause the breakup of their family. Instead, they set out to “get high” and to “have fun.” So they experiment.

But in their experimenting they discover something unexpected. Perhaps they discover that the drugs fill an emptiness in their lives. They may not even have realized there was this deep emptiness within them until they recognize the drugs seem to fill it. Or maybe they discover that the drugs dull the pain of some kind of horrible life experience. Whatever it is they discover, it leads them to continue to experiment with drugs and to continue to seek solace in illicit substances.

But the truth is that drugs can only fill the emptiness or dull the pain for just a little while. When they wear off, the underlying causes of the pain or emptiness are still there. And so the cycle continues.

The Bedford Christian Fellowship believes there is only one thing that can truly fill the void in a human’s life. There is only one thing that can cure the awful pain that life sometimes serves up. And that “one thing” in both cases is the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

We therefore urge everyone in our community to pray for the families in our community that are suffering from loved ones in the grip of drug abuse. Pray for the children of drug abusing parents and for the social workers dealing with them. Pray for the neighborhoods where drug markets result in higher crime rates and violence. Pray for law enforcement and the judicial system that confront the ugliest aspects of drug abuse daily. Pray for those in the health care system that work so hard to mitigate the health consequences of drug abusers. And pray that those in our community who use illegal drugs might find that Jesus is the real cure for all life’s problems.

We know from our own personal experiences that prayer is powerful. That is why it is our humble prayer that Bedford will more and more become a praying community. To that end, the Bedford Christian Fellowship invites everyone in the Bedford community to join with us on Sept. 11, 2008, for a community prayer breakfast where we will together pray for those who protect us, for those lead us, and for the families of our community and nation.

The Bedford Christian Fellowship is an ecumenical group of Christian men who meet monthly for prayer, fellowship, and mutual support. For more information about the Fellowship, you may contact them in care of 1109 Park Street, Bedford, VA 24523. If you have a need for daily prayer support we suggest you call the Upper Room Toll Free Prayer Line at (800)-251-2468.