By James R. McCain, M.D.
Dolly and Harry give a schoolboy some white stuff that looked like stardust. He ran with great speed to the yard where he lay in the grass and looking up into the blue heavens dreamed of taking trips where he could have. juice, fags, and a businessman’s high. Doesn’t make much sense, does it? These sentences were constructed using slang names for drugs that are being used today! Methadone, Heroin. Codeine, Morphine, Cocaine, Amphetamines, Marijuana, Barbituates, LSD, Alcohol, Tobacco and DMT.
Drug abuse is not just a problem for the underprivileged families and for the ghettos, but it is a problem for all society, the Christian family included. Drug abuse to the Christian should immediately bring to mind the “works of the flesh” in Ga. 5:19. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like . . . .” Any and all of these works could conceivably be a resultant factor in drug abuse. But a Christian need practice only one “work of the flesh” to miss inheriting the Kingdom of God. Among all the “works” mentioned in the above scripture, sorcery stands out as the one that would embrace drug abuse. The Greek word for sorcery is pharmakia from which we get our English word pharmacy. Its meaning primarily signifies the use of medicine, drugs, spells. Others “works” such as uncleanness, lasciviousness, drunkenness and revellings very often are associated with drug abuse.
If we wanted to use one phrase to describe why people abuse the use of drugs, it would probably have to be because of its “mind-altering” effect. Here again Christians are taught to be sober – sober-minded. The word “sober” as used in 1 Thess. 5:6-8 (not drunken), 1 Pet. 1:13 (gird up mind by being sober), and 1 Pet. 5:8 (be sober, be watchful; your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour) is translated from the Greek word nepho. This word nepho signifies in the New Testament to be free from the influence of intoxicants. We must therefore be keen of mind, lucid, ever watchful whereas the drug abuser is easy prey for the devil and will be devoured by the “roaring lion.”
This paper is being written in the hope that those who read it may be better informed about the dangers of the drugs that are being used today by our young people and even older people. These drugs, that alter the mind, and have the potential for causing organic damage, should be relagated to the devil and not be a part of the sober Christian’s armor.
The most prevalent drug used today is alcohol. By definition alcohol falls in the category of being a food as it does contain calories. However, it has no nutritional value. It also can be categorized as a drug because it affects the Central Nervous System. Unfortunately the term alcoholic does not apply to only the older generation. The average age for becoming an alcoholic is becoming increasingly younger and younger. There are even cases recorded of 7-year old children becoming alcoholics. The average age a young person begins to drink alcoholic beverages is 12-14 years. The addictive years for alcohol are between 18-24 years. It takes a teenager 15 months to become addictive; it takes an adult, 15 years to become addictive.
Twenty percent of the alcohol consumed by an individual goes into the blood stream immediately; the remaining 8©% goes in only slightly slower but once in the blood stream begins its tranquilizing effect, although at first it may seem to be stimulating. Depending upon the amount taken in, size of the individual, whether consumed with food, and how rapidly it is taken in determines how quickly the brain becomes depressed. If steady, heavy drinking persists, the brain can become anesthetized to such a degree that coma and death may result. The more chronic long-term effect of alcohol is seen to contribute to cirrhosis of the liver, gastric ulcers, heart disease, serious nervous and mental disorders and even permanent brain damage.
Many homes are destroyed because of alcohol; many accidents are the direct result of alcoholic consumption. There are several million so-called alcoholics in the world today and a recent survey revealed that 68% of American adults drink at least occasionally. Twenty percent of those who drink become alcoholic. Forty-one billion dollars a year are spent on alcohol. Many young people are turning from other drugs to alcohol. The lowering of the legal age to 18 years has not helped the situation.
Some states are considering going back to age 21 as the legal age to buy intoxicating beverages. (Why not age 100?)
Marijuana is, at the present time, the second most popular and widely used drug. Marijuana is derived from the flowering tops and leaves of the Indian Hemp plant, cannabis sativa. It has been known by man for nearly 5,000 years but was not introduced into the USA as an intoxicating drug until 1920. Eighty percent of the Marijuana used in the USA comes from Mexico, the rest from Africa, India, the Middle East and the USA. It has been estimated that $100 million a year is spent on Marijuana use.
It can be smoked or a concentrate of it called Hashish oil can be dropped on a regular cigarette or in food. It enters the blood stream and acts on the brain and nervous system. It works by affecting the mood and thinking process. Among other things it affects decision-making processes. It makes a person highly vulnerable to other people’s suggestions, therefore often results in highly irresponsible activity. Marijuana use does not result in a physiological dependence (body has to have it to function) but does result in psychological dependence – therefore habituating. Although medical science does not know all the effects of Marijuana, since it is classified as a mindaltering chemical. society in general, and Christians in particular should refrain from its use.
There are a group of drugs known as Hallucinogens. The most popular one of these has been LSD (D-Lysergic acid diethylamide) developed in 1938 from a fungus, Ergot, that grows as a rust on rye and other cereals. It is so powerful that a single ounce provides 300,000 average doses.
Another hallucinogenic drug is derived from the peyote cactus and is called mescaline. The Indians of northern Mexico have used it for years as a part of their traditional religious rites. Psilocybin, DMT, and STP are other hallucinogenic drugs.
The hallucinogens produce sensory illusions, making it difficult to distinquish between the fact and fantasy. In large doses they may produce unreal sights and sounds and users may describe “hearing” colors and “seeing” sounds. Sense of direction, distance and time become disoriented. Restlessness and sleeplessness are common symptoms. Tolerance to the drugs develop after prolonged use; therefore, larger and larger doses are required for the user to get the desired effect. And the effect is unpredictable and may result in “good” trips or “bad” trips.
Chronic use does not apparently cause physiological dependence, but can alter the user’s values and impair his power of concentration and ability to think. It is not known how LSD works but it is thought to affect the levels of certain chemicals in the brain and to produce changes in the brain’s electrical activity.
There have been reported many cases of panic and fear of losing one’s mind; paranoia (feeling someone is trying to cause harm or control one’s thinking); a recurrence of “the trip” days, weeks or even months after having used the drug with the resultant fear of losing one’s mind; accidental death because the user thinks he can fly or float in the air therefore leaps from great heights, etc. Although research has not proved it, the use of LSD becomes a high risk to pregnant women because of the possibility of chromosomal changes in an unborn child, causing defects.
Many volatile substances produce an intoxicated state when inhaled. Young children and adolescent are more prone to try these methods of distorting consciousness. These fall into 3 groups:
(1) Commercial solvents such as Toluene, benzene, acetone, carbon tetracholride, and other volatile substances found in airplane glue, plastic cements, paint thinner, gasoline, cleaning fluid, nail polish remover, and cigarette lighter fluid.
(2) Propellants in aerosols.
(3) Anesthetics – chloroform, ether, etc.
The psychic effects of these may produce a high dreamlike state, drunkenness, sleepines, disorientation, hallucinations, delusions, and stupor. Most sniffers do not recall the events that occurred while “under the effect.” The young people who engage in this practice often have a history of delinquent activity. Because of the intoxicating effect that impairs judgement and motor function, many accidents occur, often fatal. Habitual use, depending upon the material, may cause lead poisoning (gasoline), kidney and liver disease (carbon tetrachloride) and tissue damage to the brain.
Another group of drugs on the drug abuse list are the depressants. These are Chloral Hydrate, Barbiturates, Clutethimide (Doriden), Methaqualone (Quaalude), Meprobamate (Miltown, Equanil), Benzodiazepines (Valium, Librium). These drugs are widely prescribed by physicians for the treatment of insomnia, relief of anxiety, irritability and tension. In excessive amounts they produce symptoms similar to that of alcohol. These drugs can cause physiological dependence. Taken with alcohol they can become lethal. Depressants are often used particularly by women as a means of suicide.
Stimulants are chemical drugs that excite the central nervous system. The most common are nicotine (Tobacco) and caffeine (coffee and tea). In moderation they relieve fatigue and increase alertness. The stronger stimulants are cocaine, the amphetamines, and the anorectic drugs (appetite suppressants). All the stimulants produce mood elevation and a heightened sense of well-being. Chronic users feel stronger, more confident, decisive and selfpossessed. If given directly in the vein they may produce a sudden sensation known as a “flash” or “rush.” The protracted user, after getting a stimulating effect, may later lapse into a state of depression known as “crashing.” As a result another injection is given and the condition may progress to delirium, psychosis or physical exhaustion. Those in professions that require alertness for long hours often take stimulants (uppers) to stay awake. In some, a pattern of “uppers” in the morning and “downers” (alcohol or depressants) at night develop. It is not certain whether these drugs cause physical dependence but very definitely cause psychological dependence. There have been. some fatalities among athletes who have undergone extreme exertion who were taking moderate amounts of stimulant drugs.
Cocaine is extracted from the South American coca plant and is currently used infrequently in the medical profession. When sniffed or snorted or given in the vein, it causes extreme euphoria. Because of its intense pleasurable effect, a strong psychic dependency may develop. The Amphetamines are used medically for unusual states of sleepiness, appetite control and hyperactive behavioral disorders in children.
The anorectic drugs such as Tennate, Presate, Ionamin are used for appetite control and are less potent than the amphetamines.
When we say narcotic drugs, we think of Heroin, Morphine, Paregoric and Codeine. Certain synthetic drugs such as Demeral and Dolophine are also considered narcotic drugs – pain killers. These are definitely among the most dangerous drugs and cause addiction – physiological dependence as well as psychological dependence. These drugs are being used by young people in the ghetto as well as some middle-aged and older people who take then regularly to relieve pain. Heroin at first reduces tension, eases fears and anxiety. Following the exhilaration period, the user may sink into a stupor. Heroin decreases appetite, thirst and the sex drive. Many habitual users therefore suffer from malnutrition. Heroin addiction is particularly lethal because it is such an expensive habit. A user may need to spend from $75-$100 a day to satisfy his needs. Therefore, oftentimes he has to resort to stealing and other crimes. Women often resort to prostitution. Those addicted to heroin and other narcotic drugs are by far the most difficult to cure because of withdrawal sickness. Once the drug has been withdrawn, the difficult task lies in keeping the user from picking up the habit again.
Abusive drugs are everywhere – in the grammar schools, high schools, entertainment and professional world and on the street. As responsible citizens and concerned Christians, we should be aware of the danger of these drugs. They are truly, intimately and unequivocally related to the. “works of the flesh.”
- Define the Greek word pharmakia which is translated “sorcery” in Gal. 5:19.
- Define the word nepho which is translated “sober” in 1 Thess. 5:6-8; 1 Pet. 1:13; 5:8. How does the word relate to the subject of drug abuse.
- What is the most prevalent drug abused today?
- What age is alcohol addiction most likely to occur?
- How does prolonged alcoholism effect the body?
- What is the second most popular drug abused?
- What effects come from using marijuana? .
- How do hallucinogenic drugs affect an individual?
- What kinds of “drugs” do young people sometimes sniff and what effects do they have?
- Define physiological dependence and psychological dependence.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 21, pp. 338-341
May 24, 1979