Here are some sobering statistics: In 2016, more than 2 million Americans had an addiction to prescription or illicit opioids. In 2016, more than 42,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses. In 2016, nearly 175 Americans died from a drug overdose per day. And today in 2019, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of injury death in the United States.


“Religion is the opium of the people” is a frequently paraphrased quote from the philosopher Karl Marx. The full quote reads, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” Marx also wrote that, “Religion is the impotence of the human mind to deal with occurrences it cannot understand.”


So if religion is the opium of the people, then how do we explain that opioids are in fact becoming the opium of the people? If religion is merely an escape mechanism for an impotent human mind, then how do we explain the fact that people’s religious beliefs can demonstrably bolster their spiritual resiliency? If religion is the problem, then how can religion and/or spirituality be crucial components to the solution?


Much like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous is not affiliated with a particular religion. Nevertheless, much like most 12-step recovery programs, NA’s recovery program can be considered “spiritual” since the 12 steps of NA refer to “God” or a “Higher Power.” The 12 steps are as follows:


  1. We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction; that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

If you or your wingman are struggling – Stop – Get Help – Or, get help so that you can stop.


Ch O


Chaplain, (Maj.) John O’Brien

115th Fighter Wing Chaplain Corps

Truax Field, Madison, WI

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