March 6, 2017

House Call

How can we instill this quality?

Peter N. Landless & Zeno L. Charles-Marcel

You have addressed issues of smoking tobacco and marijuana and the use of alcohol in your column. Can we drugproof our young people?

Addictions are a rampant and growing problem. Whenever we address addictions and at-risk behaviors, we include the importance of prevention. We were raised repeatedly hearing that “prevention is better than cure.” The more we work with the addictions ravaging society, the more we posit that prevention is the cure!

Rehabilitation for those in the shackles of addictions is needed, but it is extremely expensive and requires specialized personnel and facilities, and recidivism is very high. We as a church family—both within the household of faith and as we attempt to be relevant within our communities—must dedicate time and effort to the prevention of at-risk behaviors in all age groups. Addictions are on the increase in young and even older adults. Prescription drugs are a problem in the latter group.

So, in prevention, what works? Education is very important. We have correctly been urged to “educate, educate, educate.” Education alone, however, is not enough. Two additional vital factors are essential.

First, the introduction of a set of values; as Seventh-day Adventist Christians, we have a set of values that is informed and embodied within the Word of God and exemplified by the life of Jesus Christ.

The other vital component is social support and connectedness for young and old. Scientific evidence is robust: college and university students who report high levels of social support also report significantly lower levels of stress. Social support is associated with improved academic performance. Students and scholars who experience connectedness with a set of values and individuals of significance in their lives are less likely to engage in experimentation with drugs, alcohol and tobacco, and premarital sexual relationships.

What is social support? In a word, social support is love. Love and caring are health giving. Sincere, honest relationships promote good health. These all lead to the development of resilience. Resilience is the capacity to maintain competent functioning despite the adversity of life stressors, including the transitions of adolescence, domestic dysfunction, abuse, political chaos, and unrest. Resilience develops over time and requires intentional effort. The hallmark of resilience is the ability to cope under difficult circumstances.

Mentoring is key to building resilient, drug-free young people. Mentored youth are:

  • 46 percent less likely to initiate drug use.
  • 27 percent less likely to initiate alcohol use.
  • 53 percent less likely to skip school.
  • 37 percent less likely to skip class.
  • much less likely to hit someone.
  • more confident in schoolwork.
  • more likely to get along better with their family.

Spiritual values, social support, mentoring, and connectedness build resilience and help young people make wise choices and resist at-risk behaviors. By knowing, loving, and mentoring young people, we reveal to them the characteristics of our loving heavenly Father, who has loved us with “an everlasting love.”

Not only does He love us, but I’m sure He likes us! Someone described it this way: God likes you so much that if He carried a wallet, your picture would be in it. What a God we serve!

Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of the General Conference Health Ministries Department. Zeno L. Charles-Marcel, a board-certified internist, is an associate director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.