Definition: There are various definitions of the word “drugs.” In the sense being discussed here, drugs are nonfood, mood-altering substances that are not deemed medically necessary but that are used in an effort to escape from the problems of life, to get a dreamy feeling, or a sense of well-being or of elation.
Does the Bible actually forbid the use of drugs for pleasure?
It does not name such substances as heroin, cocaine, LSD, PCP (angel dust), marijuana, and tobacco. But it does provide needed guidelines so that we can know what to do and what to avoid in order to please God. Similarly, the Bible does not say that it is wrong to use a gun to kill someone, but it does forbid murder.
Luke 10:25-27: “‘By doing what shall I inherit everlasting life?’ . . . ‘“You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole strength and with your whole mind,” and, “your neighbor as yourself.”’” (Is a person really loving God with his whole soul and his whole mind if he makes a practice of things that needlessly shorten his life and cause his mind to be blurred? Is he showing love for his neighbor if he steals from others to support his drug habit?)
2 Cor. 7:1: “Since we have these promises [of having Jehovah as our God and our Father], beloved ones, let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in God’s fear.” (But can we expect to have God’s approval if we deliberately do things that defile our bodies?)
Titus 2:11, 12: “The undeserved kindness of God which brings salvation to all sorts of men has been manifested, instructing us to repudiate ungodliness and worldly desires and to live with soundness of mind [“be self-restrained,” JB; ‘to live self-controlled lives,’ TEV] and righteousness and godly devotion amid this present system of things.” (Is the use of drugs that impair one’s judgment or that cause a person to lose self-control in harmony with that counsel?)
Gal. 5:19-21: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, and they are . . . practice of spiritism, . . . revelries, and things like these. . . . Those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.” (The literal meaning of the Greek word phar·ma·kiʹa, here rendered “practice of spiritism,” is “druggery.” An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine, in commenting on this Greek word, says: “In sorcery, the use of drugs, whether simple or potent, was generally accompanied by incantations and appeals to occult powers, with the provision of various charms, amulets, etc., professedly designed to keep the applicant or patient from the attention and power of demons, but actually to impress the applicant with the mysterious resources and powers of the sorcerer.” [London, 1940, Vol. IV, pp. 51, 52] Similarly today, many who use drugs are involved in spiritistic practices or associate with those who are, because a blank mind or one that experiences hallucinations is easy prey to the demons. Compare Luke 11:24-26.)
Titus 3:1: “Be in subjection and be obedient to governments and authorities as rulers.” (In many locations, possession or use of certain drugs is a violation of the law.)
Since some of the drugs may help a person to feel good, are they really so harmful?
2 Tim. 3:1-5: “In the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be . . . lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God . . . From these turn away.” (Clearly the Bible warns against craving pleasure to such an extent that we put it ahead of applying the righteous principles of God’s Word and having his approval.)
Some NARCOTICS bring relief from pain and can produce a feeling of contentment, but they are also addictive and can result in death from overdose. Sniffing some SOLVENTS can produce a feeling of excitement, but it can also result in slurred speech, distortion of vision, loss of muscular control, in addition to irreversible damage to the brain, liver, and kidneys. HALLUCINOGENS cause a “high” feeling and seem to dispel fatigue, but they also cause distortions in perception of distance, impair logical thinking, can cause irreversible personality changes, and produce suicidal or homicidal inclinations.
What about marijuana—is it harmless? Some doctors have said that it is
David Powelson, M.D., formerly chief of psychiatry, Cowell Hospital, University of California, Berkeley, at one time advocated legalizing the use of marijuana. Later, after more evidence was available, he wrote: “I now believe that marijuana is the most dangerous drug we must contend with: 1. Its early use is beguiling. The user is given an illusion of feeling good; he cannot sense the deterioration of his mental and physiological processes. 2. Its continued use leads to delusional thinking. After one to three years of continuous use, the pathological forms of thinking begin to take over the thought process.”—Executive Health Report, October 1977, p. 8.
Dr. Robert L. DuPont, former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in the United States, who in the past was quoted as minimizing danger from marijuana, more recently stated: “The real issue is the health danger posed by this epidemic [of marijuana use by the younger generation], danger of at least two kinds. One is the effects of the intoxication, ranging from the hazardous impact on driving to caring less about everything. The other area is purely physical. Here the concerns range from the regular occurrence of chronic bronchitis among marijuana users to the very real possibilities of harmful hormonal effects, effects on the immune system and possibly even cancer.”—Montreal Gazette, March 22, 1979, p. 9.
Science Digest provided these details: “Regular marijuana puffing may, in the long run, widen the gaps between nerve endings in the brain that are necessary for such vital functions as memory, emotion and behavior. In order for nerves to perform their functions, they must communicate between themselves.” Then, commenting on the results of tests involving animals, the article continues: “The most marked effects occurred in the septal region, associated with emotions; the hippocampus, concerned with memory formation; and the amygdala, responsible for certain behavioral functions.”—March 1981, p. 104.
Is use of marijuana any worse than the drinking of alcoholic beverages?
Alcohol is a food and is metabolized by the body to provide energy; the end products are disposed of by the body. However, a psychopharmacologist said: “Marijuana is a very potent drug, and the biggest mistake we make is comparing it to alcohol.” “Molecule for molecule, THC [in marijuana] is 10,000 times stronger than alcohol in its ability to produce mild intoxication . . . THC is removed slowly from the body, and many months are required to recover from its effects.” (Executive Health Report, October 1977, p. 3) The Creator knows how we are made, and his Word permits moderate use of alcoholic beverages. (Ps. 104:15; 1 Tim. 5:23) But he also strongly condemns immoderate consumption of alcohol, just as he condemns gluttony.—Prov. 23:20, 21; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10.
Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses view tobacco smoking as such a serious offense?
It shows disrespect for the gift of life
Acts 17:24, 25: “The God that made the world and all the things in it . . . gives to all persons life and breath and all things.”
“The evidence that cigarettes shorten life is overwhelming; the causal connection is as firmly established as any in medicine.”—Science 80, September/October, p. 42.
Reports show that in the United States the annual death toll from smoking has been tabulated as being 300,000; in Britain, 50,000; in Canada, 50,000. “More than one million people die annually because of smoking-related disease and the Third World, which accounts for 52% of world tobacco consumption, is making up a rapidly increasing proportion of those deaths.”—The Journal (Toronto), September 1, 1983, p. 16.
Former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, Joseph Califano, said: “Today there can be no doubt that smoking is truly slow-motion suicide.”—Scholastic Science World, March 20, 1980, p. 13.
It is not consistent with what God requires Christians to render to him
Rom. 12:1: “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.”
The surgeon general of the United States, C. Everett Koop, said: “Cigarette smoking is clearly identified as the chief preventable cause of death in our society.” (The New York Times, February 23, 1982, p. A1) “Medical studies show that . . . the average life expectancy of a smoker is three to four years less than that of a nonsmoker. The life expectancy of a heavy smoker—a person who smokes two or more packages of cigarettes a day—may be as much as eight years shorter than that of a nonsmoker.” (The World Book Encyclopedia, 1984, Vol. 17, p. 430) Is it proper for a person to present his life for service to God and then slowly to destroy that life?
“Smoking is so devastating, especially to the heart and lungs, that the other aspects of preventive medicine become comparatively insignificant if the person smokes.” (University of Southern California News Service, February 18, 1982) “Smoking is probably the largest single preventable cause of ill health in the world.” (Dr. H. Mahler, director-general of the World Health Organization, in World Health, February/March 1980, p. 3) Is it consistent for a person to present himself to God for sacred service and then deliberately to ruin his health?
Smoking is a violation of the divine requirement that we love our neighbor
“A recent study . . . revealed that the nonsmoking wives of men who smoke die on the average four years younger than women whose husbands are also nonsmokers.” (The New York Times, November 22, 1978, p. C5) “Smoking during pregnancy can cause congenital malformations so severe that either the fetus dies, or the infant does shortly after birth.” (Family Health, May 1979, p. 8) Such unloving treatment of family members is clear evidence that a person is not acting as a Christian.—Compare 1 Timothy 5:8.
“Studies have shown that since the average smoker actively smokes his cigarette for only a small portion of the time it is lit, a nonsmoker may actually be forced against his will to breathe almost as much carbon monoxide, tar and nicotine as the active smoker sitting next to him.” (Today’s Health, April 1972, p. 39) A person who is thus unloving toward his fellowman does not give evidence of loving God either.—See 1 John 4:20.
Why did God make plants from which drugs are derived if it is wrong to use them?
Things that are abused usually also have proper uses. That is true of man’s reproductive abilities. It is true of wine. Marijuana is made from the dried leaves and flowering tops of the hemp plant, which provides useful fibers for making rope and cloth. Tobacco leaves, abused by smokers, can also be used in making disinfectants and insecticides. Regarding many of earth’s resources, much is yet to be learned as to how they can be beneficially employed. Even weeds are beneficial in preventing erosion and providing mulch when soil is not under cultivation.
What can a person do if he has tried to break free from smoking or other use of drugs and has not succeeded?
First, by Bible study and meditation you need to cultivate a strong desire to please God and to live in his righteous new system of things. If you draw close to him, he will draw close to you, giving you the needed help.—Jas. 4:8.
It is important to be convinced of the badness of these practices and to develop genuine hatred for them. (Ps. 97:10) This can be done by reviewing the facts set out in this section of the book and meditating, not on temporary present pleasure that may come from the practices, but on what pleases God and how disgusting the results of the bad practices are.
If you feel a strong craving to smoke or to use one of the other drugs, pray earnestly to God for help. (Luke 11:9, 13; compare Philippians 4:13.) Do it right away. Also, get your Bible and read aloud from it, or get in touch with a mature Christian. Tell him what is happening and ask for his help.