Drugs R Us

Guess who's shelling out money to support the habits of drug addicts and alcoholics? No, not the mafia. Not Colombian drug lords. It's the U.S. government. Twenty years ago the federal government defined addiction as a disability and allowed addicts to sign up for benefits through Social Security. In a recent study the General Accounting Office discovered that a quarter of a million addicts have been receiving Social Security disability income—to the tune of more than $400 a month per person. That might not be bad if the money were being used for treatment and rehabilitation programs. But often that happens only on paper. Addicts receiving benefits are technically required to enter treatment, but enforcement is extremely lax. So where does most of the money end up going? You guessed it: to buy drugs and alcohol. The reality is that Washington is providing ready cash to alcoholics and addicts with no strings attached. As the director of a homeless shelter told federal investigators, in effect the government is "is helping people to commit suicide on the installment plan." The program was supposed to include safeguards against abuses. But again, that often happens only on paper. For example, the money was not supposed to go directly to the addict but to a third party—a so-called "representative payee." But the representative payee is usually the addict's mother or another family member, who can be threatened and intimidated into handing over the money. In some cases the representative payee even turns out to be a drug dealer or bartender, who keeps a running tab for the addict. With arrangements like these, the federal government might as well just open a chain and call it "Drugs R Us." What got the government into this ridiculous situation was the fundamental decision to define addiction as a disease or disability. No one denies that there's a physical component to addiction. But we're on dangerous ground if we define it as a disease. As Christian psychiatrist Frank Minrith put it, "Nothing is making you grab that bottle. It's a choice." In fact, confronting people with their choices is the key to real recovery. Christians who run successful drug programs say recovery begins when addicts squarely face their personal responsibility. A report in World magazine tells about a former drug dealer named Mogan, who overcame his addiction through Victory Outreach, an inner-city ministry founded by former addicts who have found freedom in Jesus Christ. As Mogan says, addiction "is not a disease. It's something you do to yourself. . . It's sin." Victory Outreach treats addicts through a regimen of prayer, Bible study, and hard work. Its success rate is so high that in some places public defenders refer clients to the center. So why not write your representatives in Congress and tell them to stop using Social Security dollars to subsidize the habits of drug and alcohol addicts. Listen to the men and women who have successfully conquered their addictions in ministries like Victory Outreach. They did it not by calling themselves sick and asking for a government handout but by recognizing chemical abuse as a sin—one that only Jesus can fully overcome.  


Chuck Colson



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