Open Your Doors – Start A Substance Abuse Ministry

I received an interesting request to share information about starting a substance abuse ministry from a couple of readers who have read some of my recently published articles.

I know that there is an overwhelming demand for religious centered substance abuse programs in urban communities. Beyond requests for prayer or referrals, churches are seeking a better response to the outpouring of requests to help addicts in their congregation or community. Most of the demand is driven by the sheer volume of addicts and high risk behaviors leading to drug abuse.

Why a faith-based substance abuse ministry? It satisfies a spiritual void that most addicts are looking to fill. Unlike traditional approaches to substance abuse recovery, the faith-based substance abuse ministry connects religious approaches to tools toward recovery. Furthermore, there is a need.

Here is some information if you are looking to establish a substance abuse ministry.

Identify Your Target
Determine if you are going to focus on your congregants or include those outside the congregation. Knowing your target will help you shape your program design for one audience or two.

Set Clear Goals and Purpose
Having clear goals and purpose for the ministry are a must. Are you working with the individual or the individual and his or her family? Are you purposefully going to proselytize to non-believers? Your goals and purpose can be framed into your mission and philosophy statements.

Create A Belief Statement
The belief statement is the fundamental principle behind your substance abuse faith ministry. You can use the belief statement as an affirmation recited before every meeting.

Design An Orientation and Training Manual
You will need to have the ability to conduct orientations for participants and create training and recruiting tools to offer program facilitators.

Find Facilitators and Train Them
Look for people who are delivered from drug and alcohol addiction or have a heart for it. A person familiar with the recovery process will be best suited and will exhibit a passion for the calling. Orient and train them in the principles of the ministry and recovery services that will be offered to participants.

Advertise
Advertise that you are starting a recovery program. You can advertise many ways, in your church bulletin, using social media, or by placing a banner outside of your church. Once you advertise, people will come.

Set a Date
Establish a date and time for regular meetings. Most importantly, you must be consistent because participants are depending on you and will get into a habit of attending at a specified time and a place.

Hold a Meeting
Bask in the moment of knowing that you have created a successful substance abuse ministry. Holding a meeting is one of the most rewarding moments and accomplishments in your faith.

Share the Message
Once your substance abuse ministry is running successfully, spread the good news with others. Ministry is about sharing so that others can be brought into the body. Don’t keep it to yourself.

A word of advice is that a substance abuse ministry is more than a prayer. It is a connection to recovery using faith principles. If you want your substance abuse ministry to be successful, you will need dedication and devotion.

How to Stop Substance Abuse and Drug Addiction

Most people associate dangerous addiction with the use of illegal drugs, but substance abuse consists of any dangerous dependence, including alcoholism and reliance on prescription drugs. For centuries, substance abuse was regarded by society as a personal failing or moral fault, and addicts were shunned and forced to the fringes of the community. Substance abuse today is recognized as a disease, typified by the brain becoming reliant on certain substances to deliver neurotransmitters like dopamine or serotonin. Street drugs like marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines react with the brain in a similar way to legal addictives, such as alcohol, tobacco, and inhalants.

These substances all increase the production of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, resulting in various “highs,” drunkenness, or relaxation of the nerves and it is this rise in dopamine levels which is the root of substance abuse. As drug abusers, alcoholics, pill poppers or cigarette smokers continue to engage in substance abuse, their brains eventually lose the ability to produce critical neurotransmitters on their own. Because dopamine and similar neurotransmitters are responsible for feelings like pleasure, the drug user becomes dependent on the substance being abused which causes the intense cravings and feelings of addiction.

Fortunately for the victims of chemical dependency, societal attitudes towards addiction have softened and treatment programs for drug, alcohol, prescription pills or tobacco use are commonplace. Rehabilitation clinics strive to assist those suffering from substance abuse, helping them to cope with their cravings incrementally, and providing personal, psychological, and spiritual guidance through the recovery process. There are national substance abuse programs, such as the 12-step Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), psychiatric help, medicinal options and even loving support from friends and family can help addicts rid themselves of their dependencies.

People afflicted with substance addictions can rely on an extremely accessible network of meetings, found in almost every city or town in the country, which serve as a coping mechanism, a therapy session, and a confessional at the same time. Drug testing kits are now readily and cheaply available for home use to help stop the addictions privately. Substance abuse is worth the efforts being made to combat it, because the damage caused by addiction is extensive and far reaching. Almost every aspect of society, from the legal system and the medical field to families and schools, is touched in some way by the destructive power of substance abuse, and the battle to prevent dangerous addictions will always be one worth fighting.

Help put a stop to substance abuse and chemical dependency by interfering and impeding at the first signs of addiction. Openly talking to the individual about your concerns and the effects of their addiction is the first stride towards acceptance and recovery. Do not be afraid to drug test at the first signs of misuse. This is especially true of prescription pills abuse as many individuals do not view Oxycontin or Vicodin as habit forming because of a prescription.

There are many home drug tests that can uncover traces of harmful narcotics like Percocet and the mind altering diazepams Xanax or Valium. Alcohol breathalyzers and oral saliva testing kits are available to discover a hidden drinking habit. Regardless of the specific substance addiction, there are many options available to help stop the cycle of drug dependency.

Substance Abuse and Learning Disabilities

The National Institute of Health estimates that about one in five people have a learning disability severe enough to interfere significantly with academic accomplishments.  Yet, other research estimates that only about one in four of these individuals with a learning disability receive proper treatment.  Since we know that learning disabilities are usually genetic, parents may fail to seek help for the very condition that impacted them.  Unfortunately, adolescents who are unaware of their learning disabilities are more likely to become involved in substance abuse, which only exacerbates their problems in school.  There is a higher incidence of substance abuse in the learning disabled population than there is in the general population.  No one is exactly sure of the nature of the relationship between the two, but there are logical hypotheses that are being researched.

Do drugs cause school failure or does school failure cause drug use?  It would be an interesting debate, but the bottom line is the two are in some way very much connected.  Yet, not everyone with learning disabilities is involved with drugs.  There has to be a reason.  For those who do fall victim to substance abuse, proper treatment is an important element of recovery. Durazzo et al, 2008;43(6):683-691,  2008

Oxford University Press, discovered that alcohol abusers with processing deficits were 14.2 times more likely to relapse with alcohol than alcoholics with normal processing. This presents a very compelling reason to test for such learning disabilities.

For any substance abuse program or treatment center to be truly effective the underlying issues of substance abuse must be clearly identified and re-mediated.  Dual diagnosis should not only include substance abuse and psychological problems but, given the high incidence of substance abuse with learning disabilities, should also include learning problems.  This, in essence, creates a triple diagnosis program.  Sobriety always comes first since, as those in the addiction field often tout, “You can’t do therapy on a drug.”  The cloud and fog need to go away before any serious work can be done.

As children and adolescents we spend almost half of each weekday in school and doing homework.  When there are learning disabilities, including processing problems, school becomes a battleground of failure.  Failure breeds low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and, often, normal peer rejection.  Pain is a great motivator.  Make no mistake about it.  While creating other problems, drugs DO numb the pain.  This is called self-medication.  Then, the person has a built-in peer group with which to socialize … other drug users.

Again, while not every person with learning disabilities turns to drug use, there is enough evidence to suggest those with learning disabilities who go untreated are much more likely to become involved with substance abuse than those who are treated.

Children and adolescents with untreated learning disabilities and substance abuse issues grow up to be adults with learning disabilities and substance abuse issues.  While the physiological effects of drugs on the developing body and brain are more severe, the life effects on an adult can often be much worse.

With proper standard psycho-educational assessments and such modern technologies as the DESA (Digital EEG Spectral Analysis), fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging), and SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) scans, the learning disabilities and processing problems can be clearly identified.  Once identified, the individual’s treatment regimen must include the remediation of the problems if it is to have any chances of sustained success.  Substance abuse and learning disabilities create psychological problems.  It is a three-headed monster.  When only two of the three are slain, it is still very much alive and capable of inflicting great harm.  Certainly, identifying the problems early in childhood and adolescence is the ideal, but it is never too late.  Adults with learning disabilities can benefit from proper diagnosis as well.

Copyright 2009 Yellen & Associates All rights reserved.