With every attempt to rescue another victim from a senseless drug tragedy, the truth emerges more clearly: An ounce of prevention is certainly worth far more than a pound of cure.
How many times we have heard the misinformed regrets of a sober one who proclaims to us, "I wish I had an exciting story to tell like the ones you have shared!"
Our reply comes quickly, "We wish that we possessed life stories similar to the one you disdain. If only we had never taken the first drinks, or popped the first pills, or smoked the first joints, then we would never have stumbled so often or gotten into such terrifying troubles. And we would not have wasted so much of our lives. You are the one with the great story! You can point with pride to the difficulties you have avoided because your mind has been clear. You can rejoice in the knowledge that your positive lifestyle has brought happiness to you and countless others. And, above all, you have pleased our Lord while our unwise actions have brought disappointment to Him!"
Many addicted individuals have never recovered. And even those who have achieved release from their harmful habits pay an astronomical price for their sin. The initial good feelings experienced by the drug abuser are minimal when compared to the terrifying consequences that may follow.
There is a better way! We must never begin the deceitful walk down the dark path of drug abuse; instead we must embrace sobriety and self-control as the best road to happiness, success, and inner peace. The following are specific tools to guide us down that road of prevention.
Tools Of Prevention
Realistic Education About Drug Abuse And Its Consequences — Our young people have garnered considerable information about drug abuse from the thriving media world of radio, television, and the Internet. However, some of this material is inaccurate and slanted toward the personal opinion or agenda of the presenter.
Christians must remember that the truth is an essential prevention tool. Education of our very young children should begin in the home. Parents and older siblings must encourage children to ask questions. And whenever those questioned do not possess the answer, they should readily admit ignorance and search for the truth with the child. The open door policy at home always works best to prevent drug abuse. Encourage youthful minds to seek the truth about issues that concern them, and be careful about the messages that we convey to our children. If we show them that telling the truth always results in punishment, they soon learn to be dishonest or quiet about important matters.
Drug education is a family matter and must be a continuous process, for the drug scene changes every day. Other helpful substance abuse education may be centered in a church or school situation. But still, wherever this information is dispensed, we must be careful that only the truth is presented.
A Good Appreciation For Self — Those with poor self-esteem are wide-open candidates for drug abuse. But those with appreciation for self will likely adopt clean living habits. If one likes himself, others will probably hold him in high esteem, too. This acceptance leads to a positive feeling of belonging. Those who lack such emotional support often wander into drug abuse in an effort to win the applause of the people in that world.
Positive Peer Pressure — We often assume that others force our loved ones to join the ranks of drug abusers. Peer pressure is much more subtle, however, and the choice to join the activities of one group or another is often born within. A significant number of individuals find themselves in limbo until one group issues an invitation to join. There are the hardcore and social substance users on one side. They intensely desire company, and do not like to have their lifestyle habits questioned by others. This group issues a constant invitation to those who are willing to adopt their way of life.
On the other side of the arena stands a group determined to remain free from drug abuse, finding their satisfaction in wholesome activities. They, too, are anxious for new members, and if their invitation rings stronger, those in the middle will fulfill their need for acceptance by embracing the sober, self-controlled lifestyle.
Involvement In Worthwhile Activities — Exciting activities with the potential to reward and enrich crowd out the desire to find relief from boredom by abusing dangerous substances. When one's energies find satisfaction in worthy challenges, there is no time left for wasteful excursions into the deceptive, artificial "feel good" society.
Beneficial Lessons Learned From The Tragic Experiences Of Others — We have both come close to death because of our sad ventures into drug dependency. We learned our lessons first hand, the hard way, and we often share parts of our stories with the prayer that those who hear will never walk the same path. Wise people learn from the experiences of others. Hopefully, our admissions that the initial good feelings were not worth the price we had to pay will dissuade others from substance abuse.
An Early Commitment To A Drug-Abuse-Free Lifestyle — Bill Elliff, an Arkansas pastor who has served on the SBC Executive Committee, proudly displays on the wall of his study a commitment he made as a teenager to a drug-free lifestyle. Those who make this decision at an early age tend to embrace it as crucial to a healthy life. During the past few years our ministry has been blessed to see more than half a million people make such a signed pledge to a drug-free lifestyle.
Upholding And Publicizing The Legal Consequences Of Drug Abuse — The truth about drug abuse and its terrifying consequences is certainly enough to scare anyone. Still, there are public figures who espouse the legalization of currently illegal substances. They fail to understand that the relaxation of such laws would greatly increase the number of those using these dangerous drugs, and thus increase the number of destroyed lives. The removal of such barriers carries with it a public stamp of approval that would cause the drug problem to increase drastically.
This is a society of laws, and the public understands the need for these laws. If fear of punishment in the home is the only reason that our children abstain, their abstention may not extend beyond their years at home. It is not enough to proclaim, "Don't do drugs!" We must answer the "Why?" question if we hope to maintain prevention.
A Sincere Trust In God For Inspiration And Direction — Without God and His direction, we are like ships without rudders. For individuals to successfully tackle the important issues of life, there must be total dependence on the Heavenly Father for leadership. True dependence on the God of the universe will inspire and enable the individual to avoid any substance that will have a negative impact. Concentration on His will for our lives will keep us in His way!
Positive Example — This particular aspect of prevention will be discussed in the article "Victory Through Example," which will appear in the February/March 2002 issue of SBC LIFE.
Prevention of drug abuse is truly a worthy goal, and its achievement will not come without extreme effort. Still, every person who avoids this self-destructive journey will be one saved from certain misery and potential destruction. This sober individual will bless society, and God will be well pleased.
Why People Abuse Drugs
1 Curiosity. There is a natural longing in many to investigate the unknown. Without a thorough knowledge of the possible consequences though, a person may stumble into a situation from which he finds it difficult or impossible to return. The desire to try a behavior-altering substance may be whetted by positive descriptions in media advertisements or by the recommendations of those who have already used the drug.
2 The Desire To Feel Good. The desire to escape from unpleasant feelings often leads the person to an involvement with some drug. Social drinkers often brag of the relaxing feeling delivered by their drug of choice, while tranquilizer advocates boast of the peaceful, serene feeling delivered by their "feel good" substances.
3 Negative Peer Pressure. The longing for acceptance often leads an individual to use the drugs that are popular among those with whom he wishes to associate.
4 Poor Self-concept. Those who focus on their shortcomings often find a temporary measure of comfort in drugs that mask their overwhelming fears. Through the use of behavior-altering drugs, these real or imagined deficiencies are temporarily covered up.
5 The Desire To Be "Cool." This is closely identified with peer pressure. Many formulate their concepts of success and happiness through the direct influence of media advertisers' portraits. Observe the large number of country club and bar regulars who seek to become members of the imaginary "in crowd" by joining group activities, such as light or heavy drinking, or the use of popular illegal drugs, such as cocaine.
6 To Cope With Difficult Problems. Physical and emotional difficulties often drive individuals to find assistance in the artificial crutches of the drug world. They are seeking an easy way out.
7 Rebellion. Grownups should understand the need for rules and laws. Yet there are adults and young people who seek release from the burden of responsibility.
These individuals often irrationally seek freedom from the shackles of authority by delving into the world of behavior-altering substances. What a pity that many of these persons may find slavery rather than freedom!
8 Lack Of A Christian Worldview. The lack of sufficient direction and reason in life is often disastrous to those who face the temptation of drug abuse. The Christian who seeks to follow the will of his Savior and Lord realizes the importance of a clear mind and clean body. The lost person has no such reason for living, and his immersion in the dangerous dark world of drug abuse may exemplify his worldview.
9 The Poor Examples Of Family And/Or Friends. See the February/March 2002 issue of SBC LIFE, "Victory Through Example."
10 Other Reasons why people become drug abusers include the delusion of invincibility, the accessibility of drugs, escape from boredom, and relief from pain.
For additional information on this subject, read chapter three of The Drug Tragedy — Hope For The One Who Hurts and chapter three of The Drug Tragedy — Hope For The One Who Cares.