In 2014, 21.5 million American adults (aged 12 and older) battled a substance use disorder.
More than 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016 a doubling of the rate from just a decade ago. Based on data from around 3 years ago, the abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs in costs related to crime, lost work productivity and health care add up to around $740 billion in US alone. Substance abuse and addiction also affects other areas, such as broken families, destroyed careers, death due to negligence or accident, domestic violence, physical abuse, and child abuse. The abuse of prescription drugs along with illegal drugs have reached epidemic levels in our country and 2017 is on pace to shatter all of the above records and further destroy individuals and communities as a whole.
The often casual approach towards recreational drug and alcohol use by celebrities, media and the popular culture have created a dangerous perception in the minds of the younger generation. In an era where they are easily influenced by what they see and hear all around them, especially with the explosion of the social media, many teenagers and young adults look at these habits as harmless fun. Those who post pictures and videos of excessive drinking, smoking pot and engaging in other drug related activities seems to be having fun and doing well in life. Often the end results and the rest of the story do not make it out in the open as it is far less glamorous and appealing to the senses. Despite popular perceptions, even casual drug use can have devastating consequences. Abusing drugs or alcohol before the brain is fully developed, any time before a person’s mid-20s, may increase the risk for addiction later in life due to the changes these substances make to growing brains. Even a one-time experimental use is enough in some people to get them hooked and thus leading to a life time of addiction. While today's anti-drug messages tend to focus only on the physical effects of use, it is important to realize that drug use can damage our immaterial self as well as our material physical body. More than ever, it is important for the church to proclaim the warnings and hope that are found in the Word of God.
I can already hear the voices and complaints; "The Bible doesn't say anything about drugs, so it must be ok.” But does Scripture's apparent silence might mean that some drug use is acceptable? Drugs were virtually nonexistent during biblical times. Thus, substances such as LSD, marijuana, heroin, Ecstasy, cocaine, methamphetamine and any number of others aren't mentioned in Scripture. But Scripture specifically instructs us to avoid an induced buzz. For example, the apostle Paul writes, "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). Paul contrasts drunkenness with being filled with the Holy Spirit of God and warns that drunkenness leads to indulging in passions with no restraint. The statement “leads to debauchery” is one of certainty and conviction. Though drugs are not mentioned in this passage, the application clearly applies to any substance that could confuse our thoughts, weaken our inhibitions and make us more vulnerable to sin. Listen to how Solomon so graphically describes it in Proverbs, "In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things" (Proverbs 23:32-33). In contrast, the filling of the Spirit of God leads to a sound mind that promotes Godliness and divine wisdom.
God instructs us to honor Him with our body. In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, the apostle Paul says, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” We do not own ourselves. Ultimately, we belong to God. Contrary to what “science” have been trying to teach us, we are not a cosmic accident or mass of protoplasm wandering aimlessly on the planet. Rather, we are made by a loving Creator in His image. Moreover, as believers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and the will of God for our lives is for our lives to be dynamic and driven by the ultimate purpose of glorifying Him. Drug use numbs our will to pursue God and His purposes for our lives. We are an eternal, spiritual being with a miraculous mind and body that bears His reflection. And He wants every part of us to be pure. If our body is the temple of God, then we must be careful not to destroy it at the expense of temporary pleasures.
Drug and alcohol abuse gives us an artificial high or an escape from reality that never really gratifies or takes away the problems of life. Their emptiness takes us away from true enjoyment in God. I am reminded of the prophet Jeremiah comparing Israel's search for satisfaction in sin to broken cisterns, man-made reservoirs designed to store water. "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water" (Jeremiah 2:13). In place of God who is the real source of peace, comfort and security, the enemy offers cheap substitutes that ultimately are like broken cisterns that cannot hold water. Trying to escape the pains of life by these artificial methods only lead to greater pain and disappointments. Those who drink the water that the world is giving are left thirsting with a bigger thirst and emptiness than ever before.
A person who is controlled by drugs or alcohol can never take “captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Obedience to God’s Word requires a person to have a mind that is not clouded by the fogginess of substances abuse. A person who cannot think as He ought to think, according to God’s Word, can never discern what is right and what is wrong. Self-control is virtually impossible as thoughts, emotions and senses are directed and controlled by these substances. Rather than bearing the fruits of the Spirit, one will find himself entrapped and enslaved by the deeds of the flesh.
In the midst of the loneliness and pain of life, it is important to understand that there is a loving heavenly Father who loves us and cares for us more than anyone else in this universe. His love was so great that He sent His one and only Son into this world so that we can have life and have it more abundantly. Listen to the beautiful words of God as penned by Isaiah the prophet : "Can a mother forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands" (Is. 49:15-16). The God of the universe has our names written on the palms of His hands !! It shows to us His nearness and divine care towards us and our problems. While Christ is ultimately the true source of our freedom from the power of addiction, it is important to seek out Christian counseling and mentorship that can guide one through this difficult process.
Satan has always been in the business of counterfeit. In contrast to the abundant life offered by Christ, Satan comes to destroy, steal and kill. But the danger lies in the fact that he often comes “masquerading as angel of light” promising new “highs” and escape from the pain and realities of life. All along, his only goal is the destruction of the body and souls of those who are created in the image of God for His glory. As the problem of drug and alcohol abuse becomes rampant in our society, more than ever the light of the Lord Jesus Christ should shine in the midst of this darkness. The church has a bigger responsibility than ever before to lovingly, compassionately and gracefully share the message of hope found in Christ with those who are trapped in this vicious cycle. May the Lord strengthen us to do just that in the days ahead.