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Brian Mark Weber / November 3, 2017

The Key to the Drug Crisis Is Family

For too long we’ve looked to the government to solve our problems, while the family unit has fallen into tatters.

Another day, another opioid death. We’re losing brothers, sisters, children, friends and co-workers at an alarming rate. The numbers are shocking enough that President Donald Trump recently declared the opioid crisis a “public health emergency.” Yet politicians have been talking about drugs for decades without any results. So what makes the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis any different?

The commission, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, came up with 56 recommendations, one of which calls for the establishment of drug courts in all federal judicial districts. For those worried about the failed “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” approach, these new courts will emphasize treatment rather than prison sentences. And for those concerned that we’re getting too soft when it comes to opioid distributors and dealers, some states and localities are going after them with charges of murder.

Other changes proposed by the commission include streamlining the process whereby states can access federal funding, making it easier for first-responders to use naloxone to reverse the effects of opioids (although this is controversial due to the false security it offers), establishing a nationwide media campaign, and creating programs in schools to identify at-risk youth. All of these steps are critical and necessary, but no government program and no amount of funding is going to wipe out the scourge of drug addiction alone.

The Washington Free Beacon, noting a new report from Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), reports, “Education and marriage are key predictors of opioid abuse. One third of Americans over 25 had at least a bachelor’s degree and that group accounted for only 9 percent of all opioid overdose deaths, according to the report. Forty percent had a high school degree or less, yet represented 68 percent of opioid overdose deaths. The remaining 23 percent of opioid deaths are attributable to the 27 percent of the population with only 'some’ college education.”

It’s pretty hard to argue against the numbers on this one.

But education alone is only one factor. Another is the American family. Leftists hate to hear about this one, but the data increasingly show that the disintegration of families has had far-reaching, negative impacts on our society. Drug addiction is no different.

The Free Beacon goes on to say, “The division among Americans is also pronounced when comparing married/widowed Americans to their single or divorced peers. Sixty-eight percent of Americans over 25 were married or widowed in 2015, and accounted for only 28 percent of opioid overdose deaths. By contrast, never-married and divorced Americans over 25 are 32 percent of the population, but account for 71 percent of all opioid overdose deaths. In other words, the opioid epidemic hits disproportionately those without access to education or marriage.”

Repairing or rebuilding the American family will have a noticeable, positive impact on drug abuse and other ills that plague our society. Yet strong families alone will not wipe out this epidemic. Among the thousands who died in recent years due to opioids, many were young men and women who were part of loving, stable families. Children may well be raised in supportive homes, but the lure of these drugs is both deadly and powerful. Still, we must address one of the root causes of so many problems we face: the breakdown of the family.

David French writes in National Review, “Though an intact family isn’t a foolproof shield against hopelessness, despair, and addiction, it’s still a shield. Do we want to combat the opioid crisis? If so, let’s start in the home. Let’s start with a mom and dad who love each other and stay together — through good times and bad. Let’s start with a culture that celebrates marriage and a community that encourages fidelity. Let’s treat addicts, yes, but let’s not forget that while there’s no way to inoculate any person against addiction, a life of faith, hope, and love is a good start.”

French raises another interesting point here, and that’s the way we think of addicts in our society. Many assume that addicts are deserving of their condition and that what we really need is to ramp up the drug war. But people addicted to hard drugs are concerned with getting another fix, not whether they’ll sit behind bars. It’s simply not a deterrent, at least not for users.

In some cases, addicts know that going to jail is the only way they’ll break the cycle of addiction, albeit temporarily. In at least one state, jails are now being considered as potential treatment centers. With tens of thousands of opioid deaths on the horizon for 2018, we can’t afford to categorically dismiss new ideas.

But sometimes the answers are right in front of our eyes, and we’ve witnessed a precipitous increase in drug abuse (and other social problems) as the number of two-parent families has declined. Mark Alexander reminds us of “a hard truth for men who have abandoned their families, but a harder truth for their children: Most social problems — crime, drug abuse, unwed pregnancy and abortion, youth suicide, school dropouts and the like — are the direct consequence of fatherless households.”

So we should embrace President Trump’s latest proclamation about opioids and welcome many of the recommendations made by the commission. What a president says does matter in terms of starting a national conversation, but conversations in the home are even more critical than a national decree or government program. Simply put, a child reared in a loving, supportive home has a better shot than a kid coming from a broken home.

For too long we’ve looked to the government to solve our problems, while the family unit has fallen into tatters. The essential foundation of our society is cracking, but we keep hoping that politicians will fix what ails us. In some cases, we can plod forward and afford to wait. But the opioid epidemic is sweeping across the country and taking thousands of lives in the process.

This time the price is too high.

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