Check out this unsettling yet unsurprising story from the Christian Science Monitor:
Prescription drug abuse is not just on the rise – it has become a national crisis, according to a just-released White House study detailing a 400 percent increase in substance abuse treatment admissions for prescription pain relievers between 1998 and 2008.
The non-medical use of prescription pain relievers is now the second-most prevalent form of illicit drug use in America….
The abuse of these strong drugs is an indication of a much more widespread cultural problem, says addiction specialist Clare Kavin of The Waismann Method, a treatment center for opiate dependency….
“We are in a culture of immediate gratification and nobody will put up with even the slightest discomfort anymore,” she says.
The culture of immediate gratification is a culture that has lost its grounding in a Transcendent Source, in a Higher Power. And who would blame us: pain hurts; gratification is fun; therefore, avoid pain and gratify oneself whenever possible.
The problem is, we’re supposed to be adults who know better. True religion, of whatever stripe, helps us become mature people who can deal with suffering in life-affirming ways– ways that include, among other things, tears and grief, anger and anguish. In other words, true religion helps us be honest– even when honesty hurts.
It goes without saying that none of this is a criticism of palliative care, or of medically necessary pain management: both are mercies for which we can be thankful. Neither, further, is this a criticism of individual prescription drug abusers, whose pain I wouldn’t try to imagine. Compassion, not scorn, is the proper response to these people.
The criticism is of our culture: the culture of instant gratification, which doesn’t give us much help as we try to make our way through suffering, loss, and pain.
Religion should teach us that, inevitably, there is a time in an authentic human life for surrender.