Greg Delaney said the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but human connection.
The Xenia pastor and faith coordinator for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Heroin Unit addressed the Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition on Thursday, discussing the effectiveness of community and church involvement in the opiate epidemic.
Delaney said he also serves as outreach coordinator for Woodhaven, a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center in Dayton, saying his background as an alcoholic has given him empathy for those challenged by addiction.
Delaney referenced a scientific study in which a rat was placed in a cage with two water dispensers – one filled with regular water, the other laced with cocaine. The rat would go back to the drugged water frequently, and would eventually become addicted and die, Delaney said. However, if the rat was placed in a cage with toys and other rats, the drugged water would generally remain untouched, according to Delaney.
The pastor said a similar concept was observed after the Vietnam War when soldiers returned home. Many American soldiers used heroin and other drugs while in combat, Delaney said, as a way to cope with their traumatizing circumstances and isolation – but when they came home, few continued to use drugs.
Delaney said he feels those results demonstrate how social interaction and community can combat trauma and isolation, positively impacting those who would otherwise resort to substance abuse.
Delaney said his primary focus as faith coordinator for DeWine’s Heroin Unit is mobilizing churches to get involved in drug abuse prevention efforts alongside Ohio communities.
“The church would make the most sense for that,” he said.
The challenge faced by many churchgoers and concerned community members, Delaney said, is that most addicts don’t want help. Delaney said at the height of his alcohol addiction, he hated those who tried to help him.
“You guys were like kryptonite to me,” he said.
However, he added, if those who wanted to help had stopped trying, he might not have survived.
“People do recover,” he said, “but they need help.”
Delaney said the upcoming Hope Over Heroin event is a good place to start.
The event, which will be held at the Highland County Fairgrounds June 16-17, centers around a faith-based movement focused on drug education and treatment solutions. It will feature music, food, children’s activities and speakers, including former heroin addicts. In addition to helping users overcome their addiction, the event also honors those who have lost their lives to the epidemic.
The Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition is a group of health officials, drug treatment personnel, law enforcement officers and other concerned citizens who meet regularly to discuss resources and opportunities for reducing local substance abuse.
Representatives from the Highland County Sheriff’s Office, Hillsboro Police Department, Highland County Health Department, REACH Highland County and other local entities were in attendance Thursday.
The coalition meets every fourth Thursday of the month in the conference room at the North High Business Center in Hillsboro.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.