Drugs—Key to Real Living?
1, 2. (a) To what extent are drugs used among the folks that you know? (b) Why do young folks use drugs?
LIKELY you have drugs—tranquilizers, “pep pills”—of some kind in your home, for today many of us live in a drug-obsessed society. For example, in the United States sales of the drug industry have increased more than thirtyfold since World War II. Dr. Mitchell S. Rosenthal said that in a recent year enough mood-altering drugs were prescribed by doctors “to keep every man, woman and child in [the United States] either ‘up,’ ‘down’ or ‘out of it’ for a solid month.”
2 Most drugs are prescribed for adults. But in some countries youths are consuming a big share of them ‘to enjoy themselves.’ They are also using other drugs that are not generally produced for medical use, including heroin, LSD and marijuana. Some youths may be inclined to reason: “If grown-ups take pills, use tobacco and get drunk, why shouldn’t I enjoy myself smoking marijuana or taking drugs?” What do you think? Do you feel that drugs are a key to enjoying life more fully?
DRUGS TO WHICH MANY TURN
3-9. (a) What are the drugs that are used for “kicks” or pleasure? What effects do they have on the ones who use them? (b) Do you know of any experiences that people have had with drugs that verify these effects?
3 There is a wide range of drugs that persons turn to for “kicks” or pleasure. You may already have heard much about them. But take a few moments to review what they are.
4 There are barbiturates, sometimes called “downers.” They are sedatives, which doctors may prescribe to induce sleep. There are more than two dozen types of them, and over 525 tons (476 metric tons) are produced each year in the United States alone. A large part of the supply is diverted into illegal channels.
5 There are also many stimulants used, commonly known as “pep pills” or “uppers.” Amphetamines are the principal ones. Some doctors prescribe them to suppress the appetite, reduce fatigue or relieve depression. However, it is estimated that half the legally manufactured amphetamines find their way into illegal channels.
6 LSD* is the most potent of the dozens of drugs that bring on hallucinations. In recent years many “underground” laboratories have begun making it. It produces weird effects in users. Vision is particularly altered. Illusions and hallucinations can occur even months after taking the last dose. On a “bad trip,” what a person sees in visions may be terrifying.
7 Marijuana, a product of the cannabis plant, is one of the most widely used drugs. Do you know of persons who have smoked it? Its effect is milder than that of LSD, although it, too, produces a distortion of the senses. When one is smoking marijuana, five minutes may seem like an hour. Sound and colors may seem intensified.
8 Heroin is made from morphine, which comes from the opium poppy. It is a particularly dangerous drug. Persons may become addicted after injecting it only a few times, going through terrible withdrawal pains unless they get more. When people are addicted to heroin, it can destroy their will and capacity to learn. They become slaves to a habit that slowly destroys them. A New York congressman wrote: “Heroin has destroyed the functioning of our school system.”
9 There are, of course, other drugs that many people think give them more out of life. Cocaine is one of these. Nicotine in tobacco is another. Should you use these drugs? As we have seen in the previous chapter, the Bible does not condemn moderate use of alcoholic beverages, which can relax a person and make his heart rejoice. Is it, then, proper or wise to use any of these many different drugs in an effort to make life more satisfying?
A PLACE FOR THEM?
10-12. (a) How might a doctor use a drug to help a person? (b) But how does abuse of drugs do terrible harm to people?
10 Drugs evidently have their place, and a doctor may sometimes prescribe one for you because of a health problem. If you are in excruciating pain, a doctor might give you a shot of morphine to provide relief. Barbiturates and amphetamines have undoubtedly helped some patients with medical problems. Also, heroin is used in some places to relieve the suffering of terminally ill cancer patients.
11 But, on the other hand, drugs are doing terrible harm to millions. About one million persons in the United States are reportedly barbiturate addicts, with over 3,000 dying each year from overdoses. Addiction to heroin not only results in many deaths a day due to overdoses but has turned tens of thousands into dangerous criminals. To support their expensive habits, addicts steal more than $3,000,000 in property in New York city, on the average, every day!
12 What does this mean? Should drugs be abolished? Not necessarily, since many drugs can serve a good purpose. But the problem is the widespread misuse or abuse of them. Millions of persons use them where no treatment for illness is involved, and in large doses never intended in medical use. Often the user simply desires to get a dreamy feeling, or even to go into some sort of trance. Is such use justified?
EFFECT ON THE BODY
13-17. (a) As shown in medical literature, what actually are all drugs? (b) So, why is their use even for medical purposes a calculated risk? (c) Analyze how the following scriptures indicate God’s view of any use of drugs simply for pleasure or to “get high”: 2 Corinthians 7:1; Romans 13:13; 12:1.
13 You probably are aware that many drugs are available only on a doctor’s prescription, and that some are even illegal in many countries. Ask yourself: Why? It is for the protection of all of us. Yes, drugs can be dangerous, even death-dealing. They are, in effect, a two-edged sword, capable, in some instances, of healing, but, in others, of hurting or even killing. Drugs, a book coauthored by a professor of pharmacology, explains:
14 “All drugs are poisons, and all poisons are drugs. It is no accident that the words ‘poison’ and ‘potion’ come from the same root, or that the Greek word pharmakon, which we find rooted in our words ‘pharmacy’ and ‘pharmacology,’ originally meant both a healing draught and a deadly one.”
15 So, even when you are sick, taking a drug is a calculated risk. But because you value your life you may accept the risk and take a drug to relieve pain or to improve a poor condition of health. But would it be right for you to swallow, inject, smoke or sniff a drug in order to produce a so-called “high,” to make you forget reality and go off into some dream world? Is this use of your marvelous, God-given body in harmony with what our Creator purposed?
16 Think about this. If you were able to give somebody an exquisite gift, say a brand-new automobile, how would you feel if he deliberately misused it? Say that he tried to operate it without ever putting oil into it or changing the oil, and he used it to deliver manure? You would probably be angry or disgusted with him for such stupid misuse of your gift, wouldn’t you? How do you think, then, Jehovah God feels if we misuse our wonderful body, needlessly filling it with some poison in the quest of “kicks” or “thrills”? His Word lets us know by encouraging us: “Let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in God’s fear.” (2 Corinthians 7:1) So, we cannot be living in harmony with God’s will if, in a quest for “kicks” or “thrills,” we take into our bodies a drug that defiles them.
17 Consider too this point. We have previously discussed what the Creator has advised about drunkenness. He plainly has shown in his Word that the person who loses control because of drinking too much debases himself, often becoming unclean and foolish, a source of embarrassment to persons around him. There is no question about it, our Maker rightly condemns drunkenness. So would God’s view be different if a person lost self-control on heroin, marijuana or some other drug? Even though the reaction from drugs is not exactly the same as from alcohol, one may lose control as much or even more so than do those who get drunk on alcohol. So from the wise and reasonable counsel found in the Bible, we can see the value of not turning to drugs for intoxicating thrills.
WHAT ABOUT USING TOBACCO?
18-21. (a) Why do so many people smoke tobacco, even though it is well known that doing so is dangerous to one’s health? (b) Give at least two reasons why it would be wrong for a Christian to smoke.
18 You may ask: “What, then, about the use of tobacco, which contains the harmful drug nicotine? Tens of millions of adults smoke, as they say, ‘for pleasure.’ Is this proper?” No, it is not, as evidenced by the warning that appears on cigarette packages sold in the United States: SMOKING IS DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH. That fact is true no matter what country you live in. Why, then, do so many adults deliberately set a bad example for young people and, at the same time, ruin their own health by smoking? Mainly it is because they are addicted. A report in Science World explains:
19 “The drug . . . that causes the addiction is nicotine. . . . When there is no nicotine, the body ‘hungers’ for it. So much so that the body sometimes becomes ‘sick’ without it. Withdrawal symptoms—a sick feeling—begin. . . . Some of these symptoms are drowsiness, headaches, stomach upsets, sweating, and irregular heart beats.”
20 Clearly, smoking abuses one’s body; it is one of the ‘defilements of the flesh’ of which Christians are urged by our Creator to cleanse themselves. So you may feel that adults who smoke are in a poor position to criticize young people who are abusing themselves with drugs. And it’s true. If parents continue to abuse themselves by inhaling nicotine, how can they expect their children to take seriously what they say about the importance of avoiding drugs? Yet regardless of what others do or say, each of us individually is held accountable to God for his actions. And God’s Word the Bible has something else to say that makes smoking wrong for a Christian.
21 The Bible commands: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) But how can you smoke in the presence of others and still love your neighbor? We ask this in view of what the Medical Tribune explains: “Cigarette smoking is injurious not only to the smoker’s health—it can be harmful to the innocent bystander as well.” A prominent medical journal also noted: “Where the air circulation is typically poor, the non-smoker will be subjected to a significant health hazard from a smoker.” Since smoking also harms those around a smoker, isn’t it clear that you cannot smoke and truly love your neighbor?
IS MARIJUANA DIFFERENT?
22-25. (a) How is the effect of even moderate use of marijuana different from that of alcohol? (b) In warning us against harmful practices, how is God really helping us to get the best out of life? (Isaiah 48:17; Psalm 16:11; Proverbs 3:1-7)
22 Some young people are inclined to compare smoking marijuana with drinking alcoholic beverages. They may see their parents or other adults “get high” on alcohol, and conclude that smoking marijuana to produce similar effects is no different. Is it?
23 Recall that, whereas the Bible approves moderate use of alcoholic beverages, it condemns overindulgence, saying that “drunkards . . . will [not] inherit God’s kingdom.” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) However, many youths may say they use marijuana in moderation, and never to the extent to produce an effect similar to drunkenness. Yet marijuana is different from alcohol. Your body can convert alcohol into “fuel” that you can “burn” in your tissues. It is a food. But your body cannot use marijuana. Furthermore, alcohol is not retained for long periods of time in body or brain cells. It is dispersed from the body in a matter of hours. Marijuana’s toxic substance, however, is not quickly passed off, and produces harmful effects on the body. Six doctors from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, in a letter to the editor of the New York Times, explained:
“Marijuana contains toxic substances . . . which are only soluble in fat and stored in body tissues, including brain, for weeks and months, like DDT. The storage capacity of tissues for these substances is enormous—which explains their slow deleterious effects in habitual smokers. Anyone using these substances more than once a week cannot be drug free.”
24 Thus Tulane University’s Dr. Robert Heath brands the comparison between alcohol and marijuana as “ridiculous.” He states that alcohol has “a temporary effect. Marijuana is complex with a persisting effect.” Evidently even the moderate, regular use of marijuana can have bad effects, as the Detroit Free Press notes: “Medical researchers are reporting new discoveries which indicate that marijuana—and its big brother [hashish]—are indeed dangerous to physical and mental health when used regularly, even once or twice a week.”
25 Truly, we can be thankful for the guiding principles our Creator has given us. He loves us, and for that reason urges us to avoid what will defile our bodies and thereby hurt us, rather than contribute to our lasting happiness and welfare. Certain drugs may be able to benefit a person who is sick, but they can only harm those who turn to them in the quest for pleasure. They are not the key to real living.
Lysergic acid diethylamide.
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Just because millions of adults smoke, is this reason for you to do it?