Pope Francis: ‘We cannot be indifferent’ to people caught in drug addiction

Pope Francis Angelus Pope Francis gives the weekly Angelus address on Aug. 27, 2023. | Vatican Media.

Pope Francis said on Sunday we are called to act like Jesus and cannot be indifferent to the situations that lead people, especially adolescents, into drug addiction.

“Behind every addiction there are concrete experiences, stories of loneliness, inequality, exclusion, lack of integration,” he said. “Faced with these situations, we cannot be indifferent.”

“The Lord Jesus stopped, became close, healed wounds,” the pope said in a message to toxicologists Aug. 27 for the 60th International Congress of Forensic Toxicologists in Rome Aug. 27–31.

“In the style of his closeness,” he continued, “we too are called to act, to stop before situations of fragility and pain, to know how to listen to the cry of loneliness and anguish, to bend down to lift and bring back to new life those who fall into the bondage of drugs.”

Francis underlined in his message that it is often teens and young adults who fall into addiction, especially in a society in which they are “deprived of points of reference” during a delicate phase in their lives “characterized by significant changes at the physical, emotional, and social levels.”

“Many young people pursue the illusion of finding in drug use a suspension from anguish and lack of meaning: It is the ‘vain hope’ of a stupor that relieves them of the fatigue of being and existing, often concealed under the disguise of a desire for escapism and fun,” he said.

“The phenomenon of drug and psychotropic substance abuse continues to cause alarm and concern.”

Pope Francis also drew attention to the problem of new psychoactive substances (NPS) — drugs designed to mimic established illegal drugs, such as cocaine, MDMA, and LSD, but made with different chemical structures to avoid bans.

NPS have a “rapidly expanding market and uncertain toxicological effects and serious public health consequences,” he said. “The ease of chemically modifying such substances then enables organized crime to evade legal controls, making it more difficult to detect the illicit compounds.”

He said it is extremely important to develop treatment plans and ways of curbing the proliferation of NPS, especially because many young people abuse them without knowing their danger.

The pope also lamented an increase in doping in the sports industry.

He said the use of doping substances in sports “manifests the obsession with achieving major goals and performance results at all costs” and indicates something even more deeply rooted: “a culture of efficiency and productivity that does not allow for hesitation and failure.”

“The need to always appear to live up to expectations, exhibiting to the outside world a self-image that is high-performing and successful, from which all frailty and weakness is banished, becomes an insurmountable obstacle to the pursuit of integral human development,” he said.

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