How Ohio’s Prayer Warriors Fight Heroin Addiction
By: Michael Rass
Published: June 30, 2017

The number of unintentional drug overdose deaths in Ohio increased again in 2015, reported the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) last year. The increase was driven by a sharp rise in fentanyl-related deaths. Fentanyl can be 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine and is frequently mixed with other drugs such as heroin. “Overall, drug overdose deaths in Ohio increased from 2,531 in 2014 to 3,050 in 2015.” The ODH report illustrates the rapidly changing nature of the fight against drug addiction in Ohio. The state has worked with physicians to curb prescription opioid abuse and the number of overdose deaths involving opioid pain relievers has begun to level off. But drug abuse generally has not leveled off, as many users have switched to heroin instead. Some Ohioans believe the addiction epidemic is the symptom of a deeper spiritual crisis. Hope Over Heroin is a faith-based ministry that believes in the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to change lives. It is a collaborative effort by area churches, businesses, government agencies, and addiction and grief resources to help those suffering from drug addiction. According to the group’s website, “four pastors were compelled to bring the Gospel to the streets” after over fourteen heroin addiction related deaths occurred within a single week in Hamilton County in 2014. “Prayer warriors were mobilized, community compassion evangelism began, and the church was brought to where addicted individuals and families most impacted from the heroin/opiate epidemic lived.” It is an indication of the gravity of the addiction epidemic that the group has seen explosive growth in less than three years time. Hope Over Heroin now holds weekend rallies in many neighborhoods. Each outreach unites dozens of addiction and grief recovery resources within the community to provide instant accessibility for those in urgent need of help. All events are free and everyone is welcome. The prayer warriors are fighting an uphill battle. Last summer, marchers at a Hope Over Heroin event in the Cincinnati metropolitan area witnessed an overdose during their prayer walk. WCPO in Cincinnati reported that marchers headed toward some of the areas hit hardest by the heroin epidemic, but they didn’t expect to encounter someone actually overdosing before their eyes. Lakeview Health supports the idea of incorporating a spiritual element into addiction therapy. Many addiction professionals regard addiction as a bio-psycho-social-spiritual disorder that requires treatment of all four aspects. Lakeview’s comprehensive care addresses body, mind, and spirit. If all aspects of the disease are treated, rehab can become a life-changing experience, laying the foundation for long-term recovery from addiction.