The opiate epidemic is becoming such a large story that television programs are zeroing in on topics to try to educate the public and get the truth out to everyone's homes. Recently CNN did an episode about opiate abuse as part of the new documentary series “This Is Life with Lisa Ling,” which premiered this past Sunday. The episode titled “Unholy Addiction” concentrates on the link between opiate addiction and overdoses within the Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the opening scene which zeroes is on the church has a voice-over of Lisa Ling telling the viewers that, “More people are dying from pill overdoses in Utah than almost any other state in the U.S. and we're here to find why.”
The episode is taking a look at the large amount of opiate overdoses in the state of Utah and whether the Mormon population has a connection to this epidemic. CNN was apprehensive about airing an episode like this because they did not want people to think they were bashing a religion. According to Ling, “Whenever you put a show like this out, you get a little bit nervous about how people who subscribe to the faith will respond to it.” Ling made it clear that she was very impressed with how the church treated her and her team and how open and honest they were during the whole process. They were very willing to help and she said, “I really have to take my hat off to people in the church for giving us this kind of access and opening themselves up.”
“There is a perception, I think, that Mormonism is a very strict religion and that there is this pressure to be perfect and live these sort of perfect lives, but what everybody told me is it's not the religion that puts that pressure on people, it's totally self-imposed”, said Ling. People who have no education on the Mormon church know that they are unable to drink alcohol. Mormonism is a very strict religion that expects very high values from all of it's followers. Because Mormons are not allowed to drink alcohol, they are unable to “unwind.”
This leads many people to believe that because they are unable to drink, they look for other ways to relieve their stress. Prescription medication is allowed to be administered in the religion and this leads many Mormons down a dark path. They start to use the prescription painkillers recreationally and before they know it, they are addicted. Mormon's have very strict values and the communities are filled with picture perfect families. According to a Mormon recovery addict named Shannon, "I felt worthless," she says. "I didn’t fit in the box of being, like, this housewife. Everybody else in church gets married and has five kids by the time they’re 30. Yeah, they’re not telling you to do that, but how do you feel when you go to church and you’re the only one who doesn’t?"
I think it is fascinating that a group of people who follow strict values fall into the trap of opiate addiction. They live such stressful lives trying to live up to perfection and sometimes that stress leads people to recreational drug use. Since they are unable to drink, opiates seem like the perfect fit and over time addiction sets in. This is an unbelievable circumstance and I am very interested to see what happens in the future. Whether the Church steps in and tries to educate it's members and what other steps they will take to get control of the situation.