Recently, a young woman was found dead in a park in East Hampton. The woman came from a good family and had a bright and promising future. Tragically, she got involved with drugs, became addicted, and despite treatment programs and family support, her life was cut short from an overdose. Just three days later, her boyfriend lost his life after his battle with heroin as well.
We hear of these tragic stories on a weekly basis. Between Nassau and Suffolk Counties alone, these terrible events are happening about eight times each week. While attending a meeting at the Suffolk County Bar Association held in May 2017, police officers advised us that there has been 600 heroin-related overdoses and 117 heroin-related fatalities in Suffolk County alone, all occurring between January 1, 2017 and April 20, 2017. Please keep in mind that this fatal statistic does not include those who died several days after an overdose, but only covers those found dead on the scene. The officers also advised us that every patrol car in Suffolk County is equipped with Narcan due to the high volume of overdose calls. There officers were clearly distraught with the astronomic number of young lives lost almost every day. In June 2017, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini reported in Newsday that the police responded to 22 overdose calls in a 48-hour period.
I asked these police officers if there is anything the churches can do to help the situation. The officers told me that a big help can be offered by churches and ministries, and by hosting meetings with the police department so information can be spread to the public. I strongly encourage you to do this as it is an essential for you parishioners to hear this directly.
Likewise, it is a message that has to be brought to young people to warn them of the dangers of experimenting with this, or any drug. The pleasure of the first heroin high can never be achieved again, encouraging drug users to use higher dosages in a chase for that original high. Heroin depletes the brain of dopamine, leaving the user in an ever-deepening state of depression, leaving users seeking out the drug just to feel “normal”. Eventually, the body cannot handle this level of toxin and beings to shut down. Heroin today is more dangerous and more lethal than ever before as a result of the drug being laced with Fentanyl- a horse tranquilizer. The combination of the heroin and Fentanyl can shut down the brain’s ability to tell the lungs to breathe, often resulting in death.
The police, courts and schools are fighting as hard as they can to put an end to this epidemic, but are unfortunately losing this battle. Our society needs the help of the church by joining this fight and by speaking out against drugs, specifically to young people in your congregation. Christians are not immune to this and cannot live in a bubble. Some victims who have lost their lives to heroin may have sat in the pews of your church at one time. This is everyone’s problem and we must be engaged in the fight.
Likewise, do not isolate your efforts to the members of your congregation. Reach out to your community as well, even if just a simple message of, “don’t start- your first time may be your last.”