The Bible’s Viewpoint
Drugs for Pleasure—Why Not?
“COCAINE . . . is probably the most benign of illicit drugs currently in widespread use . . . and acutely pleasurable.”
So said Dr. Peter Bourne in 1974. Four years later as White House health policy adviser for President Jimmy Carter, Dr. Bourne was forced to resign because of charges of illicit drug use. Like many others, perhaps he thought he could justify the use of drugs for pleasure.
At one time cocaine was easily available to anyone almost anywhere—at grocery stores, in saloons, and from mail-order vendors. During the 1880’s and 1890’s, it could be smoked in the form of coca-leaf cigarettes. It was imbibed in various wine and soft-drink concoctions. Even the popular English fictional detective Sherlock Holmes is portrayed as using cocaine “three times a day for many months.”—The Sign of Four, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Cocaine was esteemed for its restorative properties and was hailed as a remedy for headache, asthma, hay fever, and toothache. It became the elixir for the masses. For example, in 1884 a youthful Sigmund Freud wrote: “I have tested this effect of coca, which wards off hunger, sleep, and fatigue and steels one to intellectual effort, some dozen times on myself . . . A first dose or even repeated doses of coca produce no compulsive desire to use the stimulant further.”—Über Coca.
In years gone by, similar comments were made regarding marijuana, which led some people to believe that the use of drugs was harmless. However, today you can read mountains of medical evidence indicating otherwise. Indeed, the use of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, crack (a form of cocaine), heroin, amphetamines, and barbiturates is extremely harmful to the body.
Harmful and Deadly Effects
Researchers claim that marijuana users can expect smaller babies, more accidents, and damaged lungs. Cocaine and its derivative crack have been linked with paranoia and other schizophrenic symptoms, intense depression, insomnia, loss of appetite, sexual impotence, profound irritability, seizures, heart attacks, strokes, skin lesions or large blisters, loss of limbs and fingers, birth defects, upper respiratory infections, loss of sense of smell, and death. According to one science writer, “if cocaine use during pregnancy were a disease, its impact on infants would be considered a national health-care crisis.”
Certain types of drug users also run a high risk of contracting AIDS. (See page 25.) And many health problems have been associated with the abuse of synthetic drugs, such as amphetamines, barbiturates, tranquilizers, and exotic “designer drugs.”
Yet, in spite of known risks, people are still tempted to try drugs. Casual users find such drugs to be exciting. Nevertheless, the risks are very real. It is like steering an oil tanker onto a submerged reef—disaster is certain.
Your Body—A ‘Living Sacrifice’
The principle expressed by the apostle Paul at Romans 12:1 has a strong bearing on this matter. It states: “Consequently I entreat you by the compassions of God, brothers, to present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason.” Christians are to offer far more meaningful sacrifices than the animal sacrifices required of the ancient nation of Israel.
Noteworthy is Paul’s use of the Greek expression rendered “sacrifice living, holy” (thy·siʹan zoʹsan ha·giʹan). According to various Bible scholars, these words take on the following meaning: The Israelite presented a dead sacrificial victim. It could not be offered again. In contrast, the Christian is to present himself with all his energies alive, “living.” (The Greek verb form translated “living” can sometimes mean “to live in health.”) And just as the Israelite was forbidden to offer that which was lame or in any way deformed, the Christian presents to God his best faculties. And since the Christian’s body becomes a vehicle for his actions, all his deeds and thoughts together with their instrument—his body—are to be dedicated solely to God. This becomes an act of total dedication. He makes no other claim to himself. Thus, his life, not ritual, is the true sacrifice.
Hence, Paul was encouraging first-century Christians, while they were yet alive on earth, to use their energies, their health, and whatever talents or gifts they had in whole-souled service to God. (Colossians 3:23) They were to give to Jehovah the very best they could offer physically and mentally. God would be well pleased with such sacrifices.
However, how would God have responded if they had willfully engaged in practices that diminished their physical or mental capacity and even shortened their life? Would Christians want to break the law and take the risk of decreasing their worth in God’s ministry? Unclean practices could disqualify them as ministers and even result in their expulsion from the Christian congregation.—Galatians 5:19-21.
Today, it is common practice the world over for people to abuse drugs. Can a person use such drugs for pleasure and still offer his body as “a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God”? Not only medical research and countless experiences of devastating consequences but also Bible principles give a clear answer—no!
[Picture on page 26]
“The Opium Smoker”—by N. C. Wyeth, 1913