“Jesus I know, and Paul I know – but what in the world is Naloxone?”
In case you’re not familiar, Naloxone is the opioid overdose reversal drug otherwise known by the popular brand name Narcan.
First responders, police officers, and medical professionals use Naloxone. An increasing number of laypeople use it as well, or at least carry it in case they ever need to use it on a friend or loved one.
It comes in three forms: Injectable, auto-injectable, and nasal spray. Narcan is the nasal spray.
The way it works is simple: Naloxone binds to the opioid receptors in a person’s brain and blocks or reverses the effect of opioids. For individuals who have overdosed, Naloxone is literally a life-saver. It can bring a person back from the abyss in a matter of moments.
What does this have to do with faith, you might ask? In other words, why am I writing about Naloxone on the Patheos Progressive Christian channel?
Well, you may be aware that the national opioid crisis now affects 1 out of every 3 people in the United States. Some researches estimate it is even more than that. In my own hometown, everyone knows someone who struggles against substance use disorder.
Here is what I said:
I’m a pastor in southern Ohio. As much as I hate to admit it, Appalachian culture is still rife with stigma against people who suffer with drug addiction.
Did they make the choice to use? Sure. But addiction is a nasty beast. It changes you. Brings you into bondage. Anyone who has suffered through it will tell you. There’s a lot of science behind it, too, if you care to do your homework.
But none of that changes the value of a human being. Ever. I don’t care how far gone a person seems to be. As long as they are still breathing, there is hope for recovery. Redemption knows no limits.
This is why harm reduction should be a given for people of faith. Yeah, Jesus saves, but so does Naloxone. Keeping people alive in the hope that they will get the help they need is one of the best ways for Christians to practice their faith.So go into all the world and preach the Gospel, and while you do, make sure you educate and inform them about this crisis. People need to know what’s happening here in southern Ohio and around the world. Our brothers and sisters are dying before their time, and the churches need to step up their game.
I’ve never experienced substance use disorder. When people ask me why I care about the opioid epidemic, I think of the friends and family whom we all have lost to the abyss of addiction. They deserve my attention and time. They deserve yours, too.
Furthermore, I think back to a time in my life not long ago when I was wrestling with a severe personal crisis. It was hard. It was affecting my emotional and physical health. It was affecting my family. But there were two guys who helped me through that time. Two men who gave me the tools I needed to overcome.
One of those gents is a personal friend and one of them is an artist. Both of them are in active recovery from drug addiction. They found ways to speak to my struggle from their own place of brokenness. It was just what I needed to bring me through.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t see it coming. Those guys brought more value to my life than I ever could have imagined. They helped me in a way that no one else could. And the thing about it is, there was a time in both their lives when many people in our society would have written them off.
“Lock them up and throw away the key.”
“Narcan them once and then let them die.”
All I know is, I thank God for those men. My life wouldn’t be the same without them. And I believe that this holds true for every person who is still fighting their way to recovery. There’s not a man or woman out there with a needle in their arm who doesn’t have more value to offer the world than we can even comprehend.
I’m just a normie, so I only know so much. But what I know is this: Our neighbors who have fallen prey to the beast of drug addiction – for WHATEVER reason — deserve our compassion. We owe it to them to provide access to treatment. To reform our broken criminal justice system. And to provide tools of harm reduction that will keep them healthy and alive in the hope that one day they too will recover.
They need us and we need them. That is what my experience has taught me, and that is what the Gospel of Jesus Christ declares. Deal with it, and get on board.
After the post went live, I was floored by the number of people who commented and shared it on their own social media pages. The overwhelming response affirmed my growing conviction that the Church needs to align its mission with the recovery community. People of faith just do not have the luxury of sitting this one out.
In fact, this is something I’ve observed recently with my own congregation as we seek to rebuild after decades of decline: Open the church doors for a Sunday service and hardly anyone shows up. But open the church doors for a recovery meeting and suddenly you’re out of room. As I sit in my office typing this post, I can hear their applause in the basement below me.
Methinks there is a lesson here for people of faith. Christians in particular should take note.
Yeah, Jesus saves, but so does Naloxone.