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Giving hope to youth without hope

HEIDI S. has a diary. She is a heroin junkie. Nine weeks after her first heroin fix, she wrote:

"Even if I get hooked, I could care less. Another war's coming anyway."


A German Problem

Anxiety about life — the Germans call it Lebensangst — marks much of West Germany today. Apprehension of nuclear war is one of the many reasons Heidi began to take drugs, and one of the many reasons drug addiction in general is on the rise throughout Western Europe.

Hopelessness has significantly contributed to spiraling drug offenses in West Germany, up by 21.3 percent from 1979 to 1980, more than any other crime category. Marijuana, hash, heroin and cocaine are smuggled in increasing amounts into the country. Other German-language areas — East Germany and Austria — are also affected.

Drug problems in German-speaking Europe are a reflection of aching social problems common in the industrialized West. The gradual erosion of the family plays a decisive role. Sixty percent of addicts come from broken or single-parent homes.

Where homes are intact outwardly, drug counselors often hear: "My parents never had any time for me." In a Cologne study of the home life of 100 jailed addicts, researchers found chronic lack of family communication present in nearly every case.

In addition, many parents resort to stimulants themselves. West Germans spend incredible sums on alcohol and tobacco products. Authorities reckon with 1.6 million alcoholics in the Federal Republic, one million in East Germany and 300,000 in Austria. Dr. Reinhart Stalmann, psychotherapist in Munich, laments:

"We West Germans have become a people of drinkers during the last 30 years. Fifty-eight percent of all men drink beer daily, 18 percent wine and 13 percent hard liquor. . . . Having a drink has become essential to 'the abundant life' . . . so our youth feel a type of group pressure [to drink] . . ."

Officials recognize the importance of this deadly pressure. A brochure put out by West Germany's Federal Center for Health Education warns: "The misuse of `drugs' such as alcohol, cigarettes and medicines by parents and adults serves as a key model for our youth. They get to know drug abuse as a form of 'impersonal need fulfillment.' "

Why is, there this need to escape reality — to cloud the mind and dull or artificially stimulate the senses? What is missing to make life so unfulfilling?

Dr. Rolf Affemann, well-known Stuttgart psychotherapist, put his finger on it. He wrote recently regarding drug offenses among youth: "If we want to . . . survive as a society, then each individual has to set himself new priorities. We must relearn the old truth that man does not live by bread alone . . . If we continue in our present lifestyle, we will destroy ourselves and the world we have built."

Disillusionment and disappointment in "today's world are produced by a self-centered, profit-oriented, materialistic "get" society. There needs to be a total change in the direction of society, in overall lifestyle. Only then can the underlying cause of the drug-alcohol abuse problem be resolved.


Switzerland's Number One Worry

The number one worry of the Swiss is the drug problem. People are concerned more about it than about violence in the streets, inflation, the environment or housing.

In a Swiss survey 10 percent of those questioned admitted to having used drugs. These traditional, harder-to-obtain drugs, however, are not the only problem. Disturbing numbers of young Swiss are turning to analgesics and other over-the-counter medications, even mixing them with alcohol. Anyone can buy the medications. And the alcohol is easy enough to come by.

As in so many other countries, efforts being made to resolve the drug problem are primarily directed to cutting off the supply, prosecuting distributors, disseminating information about the dangers of drug use and other such treatments of the effects. Far too little attention is given to the causes!

A criminal lawyer in Geneva, having dealt with many cases of drug addiction, remarked recently: "I don't know of a single example of drug addiction among youths which has not been characterized by a total lack of communication between the young person and his family."

Troubled family situations are an important contributing factor. But it goes deeper than that. Drugs fill a void in life; they substitute for a sense of purpose that is lacking when one does not understand what life is all about. The head of a drug rehabilitation program in Geneva summed it in these words:

'It's easy to obtain drugs. And then, because of a disgust of life, because of hopelessness, a process takes place which leads to suicide by an artificially imposed paradise. I insist that it is wrong to think in terms of 'curing' those on drugs. They are not sick. Detoxification without something at the end of the road is worthless."

There is a goal, a purpose in life to work toward. But how many have found it? How many know why they were born?


France's Own "French Connection"

When the cover came off the drug problem as it exists among young people in France, it was shocking! If there had previously been a reluctance to see the problem, to admit its existence, now it was on page one of the newspapers and on television. And the more public attention it got, the more widespread it was found to be.

What has been especially disturbing is that the use of drugs is not confined to social dropouts or delinquents in some run-down section of Paris. It is found throughout France, in picturesque country villages as well as in grim industrial neighborhoods — in all levels of society. Young people experimenting with drugs could no longer be described as an "American phenomenon that does not happen here."

The alarming trend has been toward the use of drugs by increasing numbers in the younger age brackets. Most drug users are between the ages of 12 and 25.

Why are so many young people turning to hashish and other hallucinogens? The reasons commonly given are for pleasure, for the excitement of doing something forbidden, to do what friends do, to satisfy a habit, to forget problems at home or at school.

Or, as one youngster sniffing glue remarked, "I don't want to destroy myself. But I have nothing to do, nothing to do, nothing to do . . ."

Concerned parents, educators, judges, physicians and police have compiled the major characteristics of the environment that especially fosters drug use or dependency. They have found it centers around an upset family situation, a broken or troubled marriage, conflict or lack of communication between parents and children, family members with mental illness or suicidal tendencies, drug use or alcoholism by other members in the family.

The presence of alcoholism in the family may be of special significance in France, since France holds the world record for the amount of alcohol consumed per capita. It amounts to 16 liters (just under 17 U.S. quarts) per person per year of pure alcohol!

French programs designed to combat the drug problem generally stress informing the public about drugs and their danger, helping parents whose children are into drugs, and assisting drug users to break the habit. But these approaches do not get to the heart of the problem. They don't straighten out family or other situations before they lead to drug use. They don't aim at changing human nature.

A controversial movie very popular with young people in France and other parts of Europe is a film by Ulrich Edel. It concerns a 13year-old drug addict and prostitute. Mr. Edel claims that through realism in the film he is attempting to show the horrors of the drug scene.

"What is striking about young addicts of the '80s," Mr. Edel remarks, "is that they give up on life before even living it. They see the world of adults and they 'get off' like one gets off a train . . . And it is not sufficient to explain that kind of total rejection in terms of secondary causes, monotonous cities, short-comings at home or at school. It's a whole 'spiritual apparatus' of society which must be blamed. The malaise is not merely economic and social, but psychological — spiritual."

It is this very spiritual aspect that most antidrug programs do not adequately address. Yet until they do, the drug problem cannot be solved.


Getting at the Root of the Problem

Numerous persons involved with drug and alcohol prevention/rehabilitation programs recognize that the root of the whole problem is spiritual in nature. At the same time many of these individuals admit that they must overlook the root cause and limit themselves to trying to deal with the effects instead. Why?

Society as a whole has not wanted to face up to its spiritual responsibilities. It has been this way from the beginning. When God created the first human beings, he gave them his great spiritual laws. In addition, he offered them his Spirit — his inner character and strength. These gifts were guaranteed to produce happy, full, abundant lives.

A society regulated by God's laws would be free of drug and alcohol abuse problems. There wouldn't be broken marriages, upset family situations and alienated children. People would be taught why they are alive. They would understand what the awe-inspiring goal of life is. There would be no need to get high on stimulants. No one would have to try filling a gaping void, over the meaning of life, with psychoactive chemicals. That void would be filled instead with God's Spirit — his vitality and inspiration.

But the first human beings had to choose whether this was what they were willing to do. "No," they said in so many words, "we want to try finding happiness our own way. We don't want God telling us what to do through his revealed laws."

So the first human family rejected God and his precepts. Ever since, mankind has been going his own bungling, ineffective, and doomed-to-failure way. And God is permitting it until humanity gets sick and tired of it all.

Listen to the description of society as it is today and how it came about. It is briefly summarized in Romans 1:28-32: "And since they [human beings] did not see fit to acknowledge God [they rejected him!], God gave them up to a base mind ["a mind void of judgment" — KJV, margin] and to improper conduct" (RSV). This "improper conduct" includes drug and alcohol abuse and all the other evils plaguing humanity.

Read the next three verses in the Bible and see how many of the evils listed there — including homosexuality — are part and parcel of the human condition today.

The only real and definitive solution to drug and alcohol misuse — and to all the other problems of this world — is to reject the way mankind has been going. And to turn to the Eternal God and his revealed laws. This is true for the individual — as well as the national — good.

Merely informing the public about the dangers of drugs and alcohol abuse, and seeking tougher penalties for pushers, is not the ultimate answer. There has to be a change of the heart — a change of human nature, a change of mind that would void the craving to use stimulants and hallucinogens in the first place. A complete discussion of this subject is contained in our free booklet Never Before Understood — Why Humanity Cannot Solve Its Evils. Be sure to send for your copy.

And why not, while you are writing for it, ask for the free booklet Why Were You Born? It makes plain the purpose of life — the reason you were born on this earth!