Sha’Carri Richardson, shocked the world and gained a lot of sympathy when she was suspended for one month after testing positive for THC, the main psycho" />
Sha'Carri Richardson

ATCM Sounds the Alarm: Sha’Carri Richardson’s self-medication as a way of coping is indicative of the U.S. trend

American track and field sprinter, Sha’Carri Richardson, shocked the world and gained a lot of sympathy when she was suspended for one month after testing positive for THC, the main psychoactive component of marijuana. The suspension will cost her a lifelong goal, the opportunity to compete this year in the 100-meter race at the Tokyo Olympics. During interviews, she revealed she’s recently lost her mother and used marijuana to self-medicate.

Richardson told reporters she used cannabis as a way to cope with the recent death of her mother. “I was definitely triggered and blinded by emotions, blinded by badness, and hurting, and hiding hurt,” she explained. “I know I can’t hide myself, so in some type of way, I was trying to hide my pain.”

“While we sympathize with Richardson on the loss of her mother in the face of the great stress of getting ready for Olympic trials, her decision to risk everything to mask pain is all too common in the U.S.,” according to Dr. David McNabb, president/CEO, Adult & Teen Challenge MidSouth (ATCM). According to McNabb, we’re moving, as a society, to self-medicating as a way of coping with the challenges of life.

“We’re not facing greater challenges than previous generations,” says McNabb. He points to past generations that endured loss due to war, poverty and disease. “Instead,” he adds, “we seem to have lost our footing – our foundation.”

McNabb is speaking of Biblical principles that served as the foundational precepts for our founding fathers and the very principles have guided people of faith for generations.

“God never promised to remove the painful events of this life but He also never intended for us to face them alone,” says McNabb. In fact, ATCM, a faith-based residential recovery program for men and women 18-50 struggling in addiction looks to these principles as the guiding philosophy of its program.

“When you are sure there is a God who created you, knows you and loves you; a God who is in control and able to keep you through any storm; then, you’re able to lean into Him and say as so many have, ‘it is well with my soul’. You’re able to weather storms.”

“Instead, what we see is frightening,” says McNabb, who points to an educational website created for school age kids to warn them about fentanyl pills that reads, “(name withheld) was familiar with Xanax and sometimes took one when he had time to chill and play video games….Self-medicating with prescription pills is socially acceptable these days.”

“We’re not just becoming one nation dependent on drugs, we’re beginning to normalize it for our kids. No wonder they turn to drugs when life gets hard,” says McNabb.

In sounding this alarm, McNabb is not disparaging people like Richardson but pointing to the cost of leaving God on the sidelines.

“We’ve expelled Him from our schools and diluted His power in many of our churches as we’ve leaned into a theology that is more politically correct and makes everyone feel good about themselves. As a result, we have a generation on mood stabilizers, states legalizing psychoactive drugs, and an opioid pandemic that killed more than 81,230 people through drug overdose between June 1, 2019, and May 31, 2020,” reports McNabb

McNabb is calling the faith community to take a stand against normalizing drugs and becoming more involved in learning to support people who may be struggling with depression. It’s the reason the ministry recently hosted pastors from across the city for a breakfast with Dr. Monty Burks, Director of Faith Based Initiatives for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Dr. Burks and his team offer this training.

“We’re still happy to make the connection and host training for our faith partners,” says McNabb. “The trend is alarming and we need to respond.”

Adult & Teen Challenge MidSouth is a faith-based, residential recovery program for men and women 18-50 struggling with addiction. A 2019 study conducted by the Center for Compassion at Evangel University confirms that an astonishing 78% of graduates from Adult & Teen Challenge centers nationwide remain sober and substance free one and three years post-graduation. The findings confirm that ATC graduates are uniquely successful at finding and maintaining freedom from addiction. For more information, call 423.756-5558 or visit tcmidsouth.org.