We lost a family member this week due to drug addiction. She wasn’t particularly young, but she was too young to die. Opioid addiction is becoming a major problem in America, and it is time to take a good look at how to address the present problem and take action to prevent future problems. Former Secretary of Education Bill Bennet recently made some comments on the subject. His comments were posted today at The Daily Signal.
Here are a few of his comments:
For example, nearly 70 percent of our nation’s opioid deaths do not come via prescription abuse. In 2015, there were 33,091 opioid overdose deaths. Heroin deaths constituted 12,990 of those deaths. Synthetic opioids (mostly illegal fentanyl) constituted another 9,580 deaths.
The main problem today, and the growth for tomorrow, is illegal opioids such as heroin, illegal fentanyl, and a hundred other synthetics, not legal drugs used illegally or in ways not as prescribed.
If we are going to tackle the opioid issue head-on, we must take illegal drugs head-on, with strategies aimed at better border enforcement, better monitoring of international mail services, and a crackdown on cartel activity, both here in America and in source countries.
Second, most of the talk and money spent on our current crisis is on treatment, recovery, and urgent overdose reversal. All are important. But simply improving access to treatment is not enough. We need to improve engagement in treatment, reduce dropout, and address the far too common outcome of relapse with sustained recovery—meaning no use of alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs.
One of the most successful drug treatment programs in America is Teen Challenge. They have a program for both men and women that is Christ-centered.
Wikipedia reports the following about Teen Challenge:
Aaron Bicknese tracked down 59 former Teen Challenge students in 1995, in order to compare them with a similar group of addicts who had spent one or two months in a hospital rehabilitation program. His results, part of his PhD dissertation, were published in “The Teen Challenge Drug Treatment Program in Comparative Perspective” 
Bicknese found that Teen Challenge graduates reported returning to drug use less often than the hospital program graduates. His results also showed that Teen Challenge graduates were far more likely to be employed, with 18 of the 59 working at Teen Challenge itself, which relies in part on former clients to run the program.
Much of these results were to Teen Challenge’s benefit, and the high success rates (up to 86%) he found have been quoted in numerous Teen Challenge and Christian Counseling websites.
There are other successful programs, but this is the one I am familiar with and the one that I trust.
Secretary Bennett talks about prevention:
But the main unaddressed nature of the opioid crisis is focus and energy on prevention.
Unlike many other chronic diseases, addiction is entirely preventable. Too few are talking about or spending time on stopping the problem before it starts. We must save every life we can, but to focus exclusively on treatment and recovery at the expense of prevention is like building prosthetic limb stores on shark-infested beachfronts. We need to warn people not to swim in those waters and we need to kill the predatory sharks.
We need look only to the recent past as a guide for today. We had major drug problems in this country in the late 1970s and 1980s. The nation rolled up its sleeves, went to work, talked about it, taught about it, and reversed it—and by 1992 we had cut drug use in half, and even more in some age groups.
But it took a national, kitchen sink strategy: Hollywood got involved, professional athletics got involved, and even presidents talked about it and gave speeches on it. Law enforcement was key, but so was direct messaging to the public at large.
That means getting serious about the goal for youth of no use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, or other drugs. That is where 90 percent of addiction starts. This clear prevention message needs to come from parents, educators, political leaders, the entertainment industry, and health care professionals—just as in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
We are losing too many good people to addiction. It is time to stand together as a nation and make drug use culturally unacceptable. That message hit home this past week.