REALity Volume XXXVI, Issue 12, December, 2017

The number of opioid deaths continues to skyrocket. Preliminary data in Canada indicate that in 2016 there were 2,458 opioid related deaths. The emergency medical teams are rushing out to save the lives of drug addicts and administering the drug “Naloxone” to revive them. In some areas, such as Vancouver’s East Side, the emergency teams are required to revive an addict as many as several times a day since there are no emergency treatment beds available for them.

In the US, drug overdose is now the leading cause of death for those under the age of 50. Roughly 64,000 people died from drug overdoses there last year, a dramatic increase from the 52,404 Americans who overdosed in 2015. Americans are dying at a faster rate than they did at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Economic distress creates conditions that make drug use attractive. It is not just economics, however, that is causing drug overdose problems. According to a report released in September, 2017 by the New Hampshire based, Granite Institute, a conservative think tank, there is a strong correlation between a lack of religious attendance and illicit drug use. The Granite Institute researched two contrasting states hit hard by the opioid crisis. One state was West Virginia, which suffers from an ailing economy, and the other, New Hampshire which has a strong economy.

New Hampshire has a serious problem, not only with opioid addiction, but also with the related problem of a high suicide rate. Yet, the economy in this state is booming with nearly full employment. New Hampshire is one of the least religious states in the US. In fact, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine are in a race to the bottom in regard to religious observance.

West Virginia, on the other hand, is much more religious than northern New England, and it has actually suppressed illicit drug use (although it still has a suicide problem).

A significant reason for the relatively low illicit drug use rate in Virginia is the state’s above-average religious attendance. In 2015, 44 percent of West Virginians attended church at least once per week (tied for the 17th-highest with Missouri and Indiana), which is 6% above the national average of 37%.

Other national research backs up the Institute’s study on religious observance and illicit drug use. A 2001 study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found:

[A]dults] who never attend religious services are almost twice as likely to drink, three times likelier to smoke, more than five times likelier to have used an illicit drug other than marijuana, almost seven times likelier to binge drink and almost eight times likelier to use marijuana than those who attend religious services at least weekly …

A 2005 study, “Faith Matters: Race/Ethnicity, Religion and Substance Use” by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which is a research center in Baltimore, Maryland, focused on education and opportunities for young people, concluded that:

Religion is an important protective factor against substance abuse and an important support for persons in recovery. Religious people are less likely than others to use drugs and less likely to experience negative drug-related consequences.