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Religious community helps combat opioid epidemic


Wendell Taylor hurt his back in the midst of a rough divorce nearly a decade ago. His doctor gave him a prescription for painkillers.

Before long, the former West Tennessee concrete business owner needed the opioids to numb his physical and mental pain.

But in his recovery, Taylor needed God.

“God has led me to get involved with places where you can grow relationships with him and other people,” said Taylor, who marked one year of sobriety in December. “The last year has just really been a miracle.”

After his second round of treatment, Taylor, 50, sought out faith-based recovery programs. He moved to a Christian halfway home in Nashville, joined a 12-step program at a nearby church and found a job at a Christian nonprofit that hires recovering addicts.

The programs represent the ways religious groups are already helping combat addiction in Tennessee, but leaders in the recovery community say places of worship can do more, especially as the opioid epidemic persists.

Studies show that traumatic events in children’s lives, including divorce, abuse and parents who use drugs, are driving most compulsive use disorders, said Dr. Daniel Sumrok, director of the Center for Addiction Science at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. Children need safe families, homes and communities, he said.

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