What's the Real Answer? Overcomming Addiction
by Chuck Colson
When Maia Szalavitz was arrested for drug use,
she was thrown in jail. The minute she was released, she hurried home and shot up again.
As she told journalist Bill Moyers, "How irrational can you get?"
On a recent
five-hour television series called "Close to Home," Moyers delved into the world
of drug addiction. He tried to answer questions about why people become hooked on drugs
and how they can overcome their addictions.
But Moyers never got around to telling viewers about the best substance-abuse programs
around: faith-based ministries.
Moyers talked to recovering addicts and alcoholics. He took cameras into a research
laboratory to show what happens to the brain when cocaine enters it. And he offered
referrals to a national drug and alcohol treatment center.
The one thing he did not do is tell viewers how much more effective faith-based rehab
programs are than secular ones when it comes to gettingand keepingpeople off drugs.
Oh, some of the programs he described have an element of faitha tacit reference to God
or a "higher power." But nothing explicit.
This is an astonishing omission. Just a few weeks ago, I stood beside an old Watergate
adversary, Joseph Califano, at a press conference at the National Press Club in
Washington. With us was the Clinton administrations drug czar, Barry McCaffrey. We
were there to talk about a new study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance
Abuseone that found that the biggest single reason for Americas skyrocketing
prison population is drugs.
What is significant is that both Califano and McCaffrey singled out faith-based
ministries like Prison Fellowship as an important part of the solution to the drug
problem. As Califano put it, "Religion and spirituality are very important components
of recovery." And he recently told U.S. News & World Report that he was stunned
to discover that nearly every ex-drug addict he meets cites religion as a key to
Statistics bear this out. National recidivism rates of secular drug rehabilitation
programs range from 60 to 75 percent. The Hazelden Foundation, which Moyers brought to the
publics attention, has a recidivism rate of 50 to 55 percent.
By contrast, San Antonios Victory Fellowshipa Christian programhas a
recidivism rate of just 20 percent. Prison Fellowships Transition of Prisoners
Program (TOP), which includes a focus on substance abuse, has a recidivism rate of just 9
Why does faith make such a difference? Its because the church understands why
people use drugs, and whator rather, Whocan fill the void.
Augustine put it best when he wrote in his Confessions, "We are made for Thee and
our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee." Lacking a relationship
with God, people lack purpose and direction in their lives. They abuse drugs and alcohol
to fill the spiritual void.
You have to wonder why Bill Moyersan ordained ministeris so afraid to talk about
If we really want to break the cycle of substance abuse, we have to introduce drug
addicts to the source of living water. Who can ensure that they will never thirst again.
When you hear discussions about what we should do about drug and alcohol problems,
remind your friends thatPBS notwithstandingthe programs with the best track record are
faith-based ministries. And thats because its Jesus Who sets us free.