Christopher Caldwell has an essay in the April issue of First Things titled “American Carnage: The New Landscape of Opioid Addiction.” In this piece, Caldwell traces the history of opiate and opioid use and abuse in the United States and describes the shocking scope of the addiction crisis in America today. He then criticizes the societal shift in thinking about addiction from a moral to a therapeutic model, demonstrated in a new vocabulary of addiction that favors terms such as “negative drug test” over a “clean urine sample” and “unsuccessful suicide” over “attempted suicide.” While Caldwell does not discount the medical aspect of addiction, he argues that ignoring moral and spiritual dimensions “belittles” those with addictions.
Matthew Loftus responds to Caldwell’s essay on the Mere Orthodoxy blog with his post, “Addiction: The Devil You Can Measure and the Devil You Can’t.” Loftus affirms much of Caldwell’s argument, but cautions for moderation in discussing the medical versus moral aspects of addiction, fighting reductionism in either direction. He concludes, “More Christian primary care doctors should start prescribing buprenorphine and more secular addictions counselors need to recognize that they are not battling flesh and blood alone. To respond to an epidemic of this magnitude, we are going to need every weapon we’ve got.”
Discussions of this nature are crucial as we deal with the worst drug crisis in our country’s history. Doctors, counselors, pastors, and family members will have to grapple with the social, medical, moral, and spiritual aspects of addiction in order to provide the best help possible to treat and prevent opioid addiction in our communities.