Prescription Drugs: the silent killer

Prescription Drugs: the silent killer

The death of Amy Winehouse has led to a raft of articles on drug use and addiction in the press over the last few days. About the only good thing to come out of the media circus is that the debate has broadened off from Heroin and Alcohol to prescription controlled addiction. Read the following article from the BBC website as an example.

I have argued elsewhere on this blog that whilst Heroin is the ‘pantomime baddie‘ of our nation, prescription drugs are actually the sinister ‘power behind the scenes‘ when it comes to the sedation of our populace. If the estate I grew up on and Niddrie are any indication of the mental state of our inner city housing schemes, then a major part of our population are sleep walking their way through an opiate controlled fog of existence. It is leaving people emotionally numb, mentally run down, physically dependent and socially castigated in many circles. The issue runs far deeper than many truly appreciate. On our scheme, in the ‘drug pond’ (from the amoeba to the sharks) prescription drugs operate almost exclusively as the currency of choice and an intricate bartering system.

Now I have worked with Heroin and Crack addicts long enough to know how hard it is for them to kick the habit. I know how hard it was for me to kick my 6 year amphetamine habit. It was excruciatingly difficult, but not impossible. But Vallies (Valium) and Tamazzies (Tamazepam) seem to be the drugs with a death like choke hold on people. Ask an addict to try and come clean of his ‘habit’ (Heroin) and he will give it a go but just watch their faces if you mention their ‘pills’. Pure, unadulterated panic sets in. That’s just the hardcore addicts.

Sadly, the prescription problem runs even deeper than that. People from all walks of life are affected. Almost every person I deal with in Niddrie is on at least one prescription for… ‘my depression, anxiety, nerves, to help me sleep, my OCD,my anti-phsycotics’ (and countless more). We are dealing with kids at 8 and 9 to OAP’s too scared to leave the house, who now hold their prescription bottle closer to them than their handbag.

It does leave us with a multitude of issues to wade through as Christians witnessing for the glory of the gospel and as those that many turn to for counsel and advice.

1. As a pastor I am seeing more and more believers leading sinful and unhelpful lifestyles through choice quickly run to the doctor when challenged and come back with a biological diagnosis. So a person isn’t lazy anymore, they are ‘run down’ or their porn issue is ‘stress related’ or their anger is a ‘chemical imbalance’ (all have happened to me in the process of church discipline leaving me practically hamstrung). So, instead of working out heart issues scripturally I am fobbed off with, ‘I will be alright when I take these.’ I mean, come on Mez, what sort of pastor can you be to question the medical profession and harrass a sick person who has the pills to prove it?

Yet, when I read scripture it appears to me that a chemical imbalance is not the reason for our sinfulness, selfishness, lust, greed and need for proud self autonomy (James 4:1-3). What hope is there for real, life change and freedom for a person when their heart issues are pushed aside and their emotions are dimmed under a chemical fog? We need to keep holding out the gospel of Jesus Christ as the only hope for this world. We need to confront people with the painful reality of their sin condition and hold out the good news that the solution is not a pill but a person, who has accomplished at Calvary a prize so wonderful that it takes our breath away and leaves our hearts burning with joy. We need to confront believers with the terrible after effects of sin as we grow in grace and sanctification together. Growth comes through cutting away the problem at its root – the human heart – and facing the painful reality of this, working it through, and finding freedom at the other end, rather than running to the nearest chemist as a temporary escape route.

Medicine does serve a valuable purpose in our lives. That is not the argument I am pursuing here. This issue is too broad and intricate to be done justice on one rambling little blog. This is merely the first tentative steps as I write to work through the process in my mind and the ramifications for my ministry. I was an addict for long enough and have worked with addicts for long enough to have a little experience and insight on the issue. I am not claiming expertise by any means but I think 26 years of personal experience on the inside and the out gives me some ability to be able to comment. My point is that a doctor cannot give us a pill to cure the ills of our souls. It cannot be done. We have a sin problem. We have real, heart issues and they require the intricate surgery of God’s Spirit as we battle our sinful desires and inclinations every day. I am going to write more on this topic. I must because it is so vital for any type of pastoral work in schemes like ours. It needs more careful, biblical thought. I will be back on this one.