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Prayer as an Alternative to Opioids

It’s ironic that President Obama’s $1.1 billion proposal to reduce the use of opioid painkillers suggests only “medication-assisted treatment,” in effect using one drug to fix a problem created by another. And it’s unfortunate that the San Francisco Chronicle, in its gutsy call for the consideration of non drug-based treatments such as physical therapy, acupuncture and meditation fails to mention prayer as an equally viable option.

Maybe it has something to do with a lack of agreement on the meaning of the word prayer.

Most folks probably think of prayer in terms of appealing to some divine being to do something he or she or it may or may not be inclined to do. If that’s the case, then I can see why the Chronicle would choose not to include it on their list.

This is not, however, how a friend of mine from Berkeley, California – a former drummer who once shared the stage with The Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead – defines prayer.

“I was taking lots and lots of drugs. In fact, at one point I estimated I had taken LSD well over 350 times,” he writes in a published account. ”I was also taking crystal meth – a dangerous drug that had a very negative physical effect on my heart and nervous system.”

His addiction continued to escalate until one morning when he found himself hallucinating in the backyard of his house after downing a drug-infused cocktail.

“Something deep inside of me started to call out for God,” he continues. “I was screaming, ‘If there is a God, I need Your help.’”

The next morning he got a call from his mom, who gave him the phone number of a friend of hers who liked to help people achieve better mental and physical health through a better understanding of God as an all-good, always forgiving, forever present power in their lives.

Later that day he met with this woman and told her, “I would like to know who is God and what is my relationship to Him.”

“We chatted for a few minutes, and then she read a couple quotes to me out of the Bible. I don’t remember what they were, but I could feel them inside of me, as if they were lighting up. I absolutely knew that what she was reading was a fact.”

“When I left her office that day, I noticed there was a different spring in my step. Something had shifted dramatically. I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I knew something had shifted. I also knew that I no longer had any desire for drugs.”

“At the end of five days, I was literally a brand new person.”

I understand that the Chronicle is not in the business of recommending prayer as a therapy. It does seem, however, that they are in the business of taking stock of what at least appears to be working for others, regardless of the modality.

Clearly, for this man from Berkeley, prayer worked.

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