This Toolkit is intended for the use of faith communities and clergy to provide ideas and resources regarding substance abuse issues. Many members of our faith community will now, or have been, impacted by problems related to substance abuse. Moving from silence to conversation about the issue will help reduce the stigma many people feel about substance abuse, their own, or that of family members, and will help people become willing to reach out to their faith community for help and support.
Impact of Substance Abuse
Substance abuse is a major public health problem that impacts society on multiple levels. Directly or indirectly, every community is affected by drug abuse and addiction, as is every family. Drug abuse impacts the individual, family, and community. A large number of individuals who are in our jails or prisons are there as a result of illegal drug use. Substance abuse can put heavy strain on family systems, sometimes bringing up enabling dynamics. Faith community members are not immune to this large societal issue.
According to SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Survey on Drug Use and Health— 2014, about two-thirds (66.6%)of people aged 12 or older reported in 2014 that they drank alcohol in the past 12 months, with 6.4% meeting criteria for an alcohol use disorder.
Also among Americans aged 12 or older, the use of illicit drugs has increased over the last decade from 8.3% of the population using illicit drugs in the past month in 2002 to 10.2% (27 million people) in 2014. Of those, 7.1 million people met criteria for an illicit drug use disorder in the past year.
Substance abuse can disrupt a person’s ability to work, care for himself/herself, and carry on relationships, and prolonged substance abuse
can lead to major health problems. People who struggle with substance abuse need community support and continuity of care to move towards recovery.
When a person is affected by both psychiatric illness and chemical dependency, they are suffering from co-occurring conditions, known as Dual Diagnosis. Psychiatric illness and chemical dependency affect an individual physically, psychologically, socially and spiritually. These conditions occur together frequently. In particular, alcohol and drug problems tend to occur with:
Sometimes the mental health concern occurs first. This can lead people to use alcohol or drugs that make them feel better temporarily. Sometimes
the substance abuse occurs first. Over time, that can lead to emotional and
mental problems. Someone with a dual diagnosis must treat both conditions.
What Clergy/Staff Need to Know
The faith community is in the unique position to offer fellowship, prayers, referrals and support to individuals with substance abuse. It is important to:
- Learn the facts about substance abuse
- Be careful with the way you use language. But not too careful- make sure you talk about substance abuse and dual diagnosis in church so congregants know it is something they can talk about too!
- Know the local resources in your community, and also know the resources elsewhere, like resources on referrals from The Caring Clergy Project.
- Along with this, keep a current list of resources.
- Know your limits. Compassion, understand and knowledge go a long way but safety is always essential.
- Know the people in your faith community, who are in recovery themselves, and can be called upon to serve as peer resources.
How Your Congregation Can Help
- Present adult classes to educate the congregation about substance abuse.
- Include articles about substance abuse in your newsletter.
- Invite representatives from local AA and NA associations to come speak to your congregation.
- Consider offering your church space for AA and NA meetings.
Where to Find Local Resources
Those linked are national websites that will help you find local chapters.
- NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness)
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Narcotics Anonymous
- Community Behavioral Health Centers
- Primary Care Providers
“When the Servant Becomes the Master”, book by Jason Powers