New report on drugs

 A major new document on drugs is being released by the Bishops' Conference Social Welfare committee today. 'Substance Misuse Today: A Catholic Reflection' outlines ways in which the church can respond to the problems of drug and alcohol abuse. Calling for a holistic approach, the 50-page study covers the spiritual aspects of addiction. It also examines the social context, environmental factors such as school exclusions and poor housing which can lead people into addiction. It outlines the important roles parish and family can play, alongside existing community services, in drugs prevention, support, education and treatment: "From a Christian point of view - 'quick fix' responses such as imprisonment or other institutions are doomed to fail especially if the lack provision for rehabilitation". A section examines links between drugs and crime and their presence in prisons and young offender institutions. The document also provides practical guidance for those who know addicts and an appendix of useful contacts. While the reflection does not enter the debate concerning the legalisation of soft drugs, Pope John Paul II stated on 20 October this year the church's conviction "in the face of opinions that seek the liberalisation of narcotic substances..drugs cannot be overcome with drugs. What is needed is widespread preventative activity". Bishop Terence Brain, chair of the Social Welfare committee said: "Drugs misuse is a major problem for society and no less a problem for the church. It is important for the church to be aware of the scourge of drug addiction in our communities and to be supportive of attempts at treatment and rehabilitation. I hope this timely and welcome document will assist in articulating a Catholic contribution towards a lasting solution."