In a heartfelt message to participants of the 60th International Congress of Forensic Toxicologists held in Rome, Pope Francis has issued a passionate plea to address the increasing drug use among young people.
His Holiness expressed deep concern over the rise in narcotic drug and psychotropic substance consumption among teenagers and young adults. He linked this disturbing trend to the vulnerabilities of contemporary societies fixated on performance and productiveness.
The message, delivered on Sunday, urged attendees of the Congress, who are deeply involved in the prevention and combat against drug addiction, to extend their reach to those struggling with addiction.
Pope Francis emphasized the importance of listening to their stories and experiences, emphasizing that “Behind every addiction there are concrete experiences, stories of loneliness, inequality, exclusion, lack of integration.” He called on society to not remain indifferent to these underlying struggles.
Pope Francis invoked the example of Jesus, who “stopped, came close, healed the wounds,” and urged a similar approach, encouraging society to halt in the face of fragility and pain, and respond with compassion. He highlighted that today’s youth, navigating the complexities of adolescence and facing societal uncertainties, are particularly susceptible to making harmful choices, such as drug use, as a response to these challenges.
The Pope’s message also spotlighted the rise of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) as a grave concern. Many adolescents, he noted, are using these substances without comprehending their dangers. He called for the development of advanced analysis techniques and preventive measures to curb the spread of NPS and promote effective therapeutic interventions.
Addressing the congress, Pope Francis expressed alarm at the connection between modern society’s culture of efficiency and productivity and the increasing use of doping substances in sports. He criticized the prevailing obsession with achieving high performance at any cost, which he believed stemmed from a societal fear of appearing weak or fragile. He argued that this “culture of efficiency and productivity” contradicts the pursuit of holistic human development and obstructs the path to genuine personal growth.
In his closing remarks, Pope Francis expressed hope that the work of forensic toxicologists would lead to the identification of educational, therapeutic, and rehabilitation strategies to counteract the drug epidemic. He advocated for the promotion of alternative cultural models and a renewed focus on helping individuals, especially young people, rediscover their sense of purpose and hope.
As the 60th International Congress of Forensic Toxicologists continues in Rome until August 31st, Pope Francis’ message serves as a solemn reminder of the urgent need to address the multifaceted challenges posed by escalating drug use among the youth.