By now, everyone has seen the image of a man and woman passed out in the car while the woman’s little grandson is in the backseat.
And many have seen the heart-rending video of a young mom overdosing on the floor of a store while her pajama-clad toddler tugs at her arm and cries, attempting to wake her up.
The pictures, the video, it’s all troubling, and to run them or link to them can seem like exploitation, or the sensationalizing of an issue that is perhaps random and rare.
But these incidences are neither random nor rare, and we need to know it. We need to know what is happening in our society for several reasons:
- If we are unaware of a problem, how can we take steps to address it?
- If we do not understand its scope, how can those steps be adequately outlined?
- If we mean to address the problem, we have to discover what is the root of this desolation.
- We — as Christians — know that even before we have the answers to the second or third question, we can take immediate action, this very day, to help our suffering sisters and brothers through the powerful force of prayer
So, yes, let’s be aware of the problem. These two cases are not isolated instances. What is the scope of this scourge of addiction in our society? It’s worse than most think. Recently in one small community there were 9 overdoses in 20 minutes; 13 ODs in 40 minutes, here.
Read this in-depth report about a small West Virginia town where there were 28 overdoses within a 4-hour period. Twenty-six survived. Cops have taken to carrying multiple doses of the reviving drug naloxone with them, because often the overdose is so severe, there is no time to wait for EMTs.
Sometimes multiple doses are needed to revive one person. Sometimes that person has been revived several times before.
This is an unfolding horror. What is the cause of it? Perhaps unemployment is playing into it. In West Virginia and Kentucky the coal industry and its suppliers have seen layoffs in the tens of thousands, and new jobs are not replacing them. Perhaps when people have no sense of themselves or their abilities to thrive and function productively, they begin to lose hope. Or perhaps the seeming chaos within our political, social, and academic spheres is contributing to the problem. Perhaps people are uncertain, and uncertainty plays into the inability to hope. It’s something we need to figure out together.
But in the meantime, we can pray. We know that prayer is real and it has power, and once we are informed about the rampant drug addiction that is cutting through communities and families — once we have begun to contemplate its sources — we can pray, even before the phenomenon is fully understood; even before there is a cogent or realistic plan in place to address it.
We can pray for all caught up in this addictive web: the drug users, their families, the first responders and medical personnel trying to save them. We can pray for wisdom within the community, state, and federal leadership, and the law enforcement people charged to not only keep the peace and save the lives, but also find the dealers. We can pray for the dealers, who are in need of salvation.
Let us pray. And let us recall, too, the great patron of addicts, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, who sacrificed his life that another could live and, when starvation did not kill him fast enough, was dispatched by the Nazis with an injection of carbolic acid.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, pray for us
St. Michael the Archangel, Patron of Police Officers and Emergency Personnel, pray for us
St. Jude Thaddeus, Apostle, Cousin of Christ, Patron of what is “hopeless,” pray for us
St. Luke, Physician and Gospel writer, pray for us
St. Maximilian Kolbe, Patron of the addicted, pray for us
St. Rita of Cascia, Patroness of “impossible causes,” pray for us
St. Hildegard of Bingen, Doctor of the Church and healer, pray for us
St. Thecla, known for healing, pray for us
Ven. Matt Talbot, favored of substance abusers, pray for us