We live in stressful times. The COVID-19 pandemic, political unrest, and other ongoing challenges (such as poverty, racism, serious damage to the environment, job loss, financial distress, and the illnesses and deaths of loved ones) have raised stress levels to record levels. “These compounding stressors are having real consequences on our minds and bodies,” according to the American Psychological Association, which says that these and other problems are causing a “national mental health crisis” in the United States. The situation is the same or even worse in other countries around the world. As a result, many people are abusing drugs and alcohol more frequently and/or engaging in other addictive behaviors to reduce stress and blunt the pain of the loss of loved ones, relationships, homes, or jobs, or other serious life events. One example is the rising number of drug overdoses, which have been fueled by the growing use and spread of the deadly opioid fentanyl. Nearly 100,000 Americans died from overdoses from June 2020 to June 2021—an 18.2 percent increase from June 2019 to June 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other addictions—such as problem gambling or spending too much time on social media or playing video games—are not typically physically dangerous, but they can damage our mental health, cause us to lose focus on important things in life (e.g., our families, relationships, faith, or careers), and otherwise downgrade the quality of our lives.
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