CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 12 January 2019

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Illegal drug makers, dealers are traffickers of death pope says

VATICAN (CNS): “We are all called to tackle the production, expansion and distribution of drugs in the world,” Pope Francis told participants at an international conference on drugs and addictions organised by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, on December 1.
 
“It is the duty and task of governments to face with courage this fight against traffickers of death,” he said, adding that “we must not be afraid to give this title” to those behind the drug trade.
 
The pope called for better and more cooperation of people and coordination of policies battling drugs and dependencies.
 
The conference, held from November 29 to December 1, brought together experts, international organisations and specialists working for rehabilitation centres or for Church-run initiatives to discuss current challenges with drug abuse and addictions and best practices in prevention and treatment.
 
“Isolated policies are no use; it is a human problem, it is a social problem, everything must be connected, creating a network of solidarity and closeness with those who are scarred by these pathologies” of addiction, Pope Francis said.
 
M.C. Sullivan, a nurse, bioethicist, attorney and the chief health care ethicist for the Archdiocese of Boston, spoke about some of the programmes and initiatives they run, some in conjunction with a local hospital, saying that reaching out to those affected by addiction, mental illness and depression is “a moral obligation,” adding, “This is how we love as Jesus loved.” 
 
Education and prevention must start early, she said, explaining how reported cases of depression, self-harming, suicide and suicide attempts have been rising across the United States (US) and are affecting children as young as three and four-years-old. 
 
Research has shown there is a connection between mental health disorders and substance abuse with many people seeking to numb, escape or medicate their mental health symptoms with addictive behaviours or substances or with substance abuse creating problems that can lead to mental health problems.  
 
One out of every five children is believed to have some kind of mental illness, Sullivan said, but if caught early more than half of those kids can manage their challenges successfully.
 
But “part of the problem is that we don’t get to children early enough to help them because there is a social stigma” or embarrassment in seeking help or recognsing there may be a problem, she explained.
 
While there is less stigmatisation today, she said there is still more to be done in getting people to go from accepting there is an issue to taking the step to get help.
 
Sullivan also underlined the importance of safety and the need to seek competent licensed experts or people with clinical expertise when it comes to getting help or advice concerning a child’s behaviour or signs something may not be right.
 
“Just because someone is on a committee doesn’t make them an expert,” she added. Concerns or questions can be brought to a pediatrician, an urgent care facility or hospital, she said.
 
Cynthia Hunt, a medical doctor, pediatrician and psychiatrist, is regional director of the Catholic Medical Association in the US observed that spiritual support is fundamental for recovery pointing out how some studies show success in healing when “faith-based integration,” such as that used in traditional 12-step recovery programmes, is used to promote forgiveness and to deal with anger.
 
“One has to believe and get to the point that they are all helpless with this addiction and then give that to God,” she said.
 
Peter Kleponis, a licensed clinical therapist and assistant director of Comprehensive Counselling Services in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, spoke at the conference about pornography addiction.
 
“We know now through neuroscience that this is an addictive substance similar to drugs and alcohol” and it “really has become the new drug of choice because of the accessibility of it through the Internet.”
 
He explained, “It’s affecting individual lives, particularly marriages. It plays a significant role in over 50 per cent of divorces in the US, so it is an issue that we do have to address.”

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