Pubdate: Thu, 23 Sep 1999
Source: Illawarra Mercury (Australia)
Copyright: Illawarra Newspapers
Author: Brian Pember, Pastor, Warilla Baptist Church


AS a pastor of Warilla Baptist Church I have been invited to take part in
the Illawarra Drug and Alcohol Summit on Friday.

As someone who has an active role in the lives of individuals and the
community, I am aware that the use and abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs
are issues important to many of us.

On September 7, I attended a drug and alcohol forum put on in the lead-up
to the summit. It was good for me to hear from a number of professionals
working in the fields of drug and alcohol detoxification, rehabilitation
and education and from individuals whose lives in some way have been
affected by alcohol or drugs.

Some of the statistics mentioned were frightening. The lack of resources
available to help those who want and need help obviously are inadequate to
meet the demand.

The genuine concern and dedication of those working in the field was obvious.

Two things stood out for me during the forum. One was that drug and alcohol
addiction was an issue of health, not law.

Addicts and alcoholics need to be treated as people who have a sickness and
not as criminals. While criminal behaviour may arise, the primary focus of
treatment must be on the addiction.

A second point was the developing recognition that drug and alcohol use is,
to some degree, a symptom of the way we choose to live our collective lives.

Addictions do not develop in a vacuum but in the environment of family,
friends, school, work or lack of it, local community and society. Values
and expectations all place pressure on people and for some the escape
through drugs is a way out.

Just as drug use is an indicator of the health of the individual, I believe
the rate of drug use is an indicator of the health of our society.
Therefore it is as a society that we need to address the problem of alcohol
and drugs.

The drug forum demonstrated there was an emphasis on preventative
strategies, early intervention for those recognised to be most at risk, and
a healthy attitude to looking for the systemic causes that may give rise to
people's need to escape through drug use.

Of particular note was the way in which local commerce has become involved
through the sponsorship of the summit.

Acting as concerned corporate citizens, a number of businesses have
recognised that they have a responsibility to contribute to the health and
well-being of the whole community. Of particular note is City Coast Credit
Union as a major sponsor of the summit.

All of us are in some way affected by the use and abuse of alcohol and
drugs, either personally as the victims of drug-related crime or simply by
our tax dollar going to provide the services needed to cope with this

All of us need to be encouraged by what is being said, and more importantly
done, by those attending the drug summit. All of us need to get behind them
and their recommendations, so that our whole society can gain in health and

Warilla Baptist Church.
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