The recent death of Philip Seymour Hoffman brought to light a problem that has been too long in the shadows. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, heroin use has “reached epidemic proportions here in the United States.”
The drug is cheap and easily available: a bag of heroin sells for about $10 on Long Island, while the equivalent amount of Vicodin costs $30. The problem is not confined to the inner city, but is spreading across America among all populations and all ages.
As a result, fatal heroin overdoses have more than doubled in some states over the last decade. In 2008, the DEA seized 559 kilograms of heroin on our border with Mexico; by 2012, seizures had more than tripled. In 2011, at least 178,000 Americans used heroin for the first time, almost double from five years earlier. Between 2007 and 2012, the total number of users ages 12 and up increased from 373,000 to 669,000. Early indicators suggest these numbers will continue to rise.
Why? Authorities say their crackdown against the misuse of prescription pain pills such as OxyContin has significantly lowered their availability for abusers. However, as one official explains, “if you shut down the supply and don’t deal with the demand, people turn to heroin.”
Herein lies my point: laws don’t change character—they reveal it.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that a sniper attack last April knocked out a California power station. It took utility workers 27 days to make repairs that brought the substation back to life. At this writing, no one has been arrested or charged in the attack, one of 274 significant instances of vandalism or deliberate damage to the nation’s power grid over the last three years. We can and should make and enforce laws against such terrorism, but until the hearts of those who would attack us are changed, their aggression will continue.
Laws change behavior in direct proportion to their enforceability. If I see a policeman with a radar gun, I’m more likely to check my speed than if I don’t. But laws don’t change character—I’d still like to travel as fast as possible to my destination.
One of the primary reasons we need a spiritual awakening in our culture is that sin is more available and less policeable than ever. The Internet has made pornography accessible to anyone with a cell phone. Changing attitudes on marriage and fidelity have made adultery more acceptable. Sophisticated drug cartels have made heroin and other narcotics cheaper and easier to obtain. If our hearts don’t change, our habits and addictions will only get worse.
Have you prayed for a great awakening yet today?