February 28, 2013

The Church and the War on Drugs

I live in a scheme which is blighted by drugs. Children as young as seven and eight years old are smoking Cannabis regularly (I smoked my first joint at 12). Heroin is as easy to get as a pint of milk from the local store. Crack, Coke, E’s, LSD, you name it and it can be delivered to your doorstep in minutes. That’s just the illegal stuff. Prescription drugs are even more problematic. Valium is pretty much the accepted currency in these parts. Uppers, downers, anti-psychotics, painkillers, Morphine, Methadone—you name it, there is a market for it. We are in the grip of a prescribed drug epidemic in Niddrie (indeed, our nation) and very few people seem to either (1) notice, or (2) care.

The results are here for all to see. Young men and women selling their bodies for sex, robbing their parents, grandparents, and neighbours for a quick fix. Children as young as five are used as drug mules. Violent crime and intimidation part of the norm. Muggings, suicide, chronic depression, and a whole host of mental health issues, and—not the least—murder are all too common. To many, the drugs war is lost and government policy should be about‘containment’. Cannabis is, apparently, ‘medicinal’ now—an argument I have laughably heard used by every user I know on this scheme. Apparently, according to some ‘experts’, there is little or no evidence to suggest it is a ‘gateway’ drug (a way in to harder drugs) and yet, every single user I know, without exception, started off their drug habit by experimenting with Cannabis. So, I am not sure who is responsible for all the so-called statistics on this stuff—but let me tell you, they have never spent more than five minutes in a housing scheme!

The government’s current formula for dealing with heroin addiction is to treat it with some form of a combination of Valium, Methadone, sleeping pills, anti-psychotics, and anti-depressants. Let me be clear: Methadone is not medicinal. In my opinion, both Methadone and Valium are far more addictive and have more far-ranging long-term health problems than many so-called illicit drugs. So, why do people do it? Any number of reasons:

  1. Social pressure
  2. Boredom
  3. Curiosity
  4. A desire for a new experience
  5. A better sex life
  6. To gain wisdom & intelligence (really!)
  7. To escape pain, worry, responsibility, tension, etc.
  8. Because they are hopelessly addicted

The scare tactics of yesteryear (Just say “NO!”) hold no sway over this generation. Drug taking, especially in the early years, is often hugely enjoyable (and we should stop pretending that it isn’t) and it can have some pleasant benefits, including:

  1. The sensation of having great insight, intuition, & knowledge.
  2. A monistic or pantheistic perception of the universe.
  3. The experience of godhood by sensing that one is infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful, indestructible, and eternal.
  4. The sense of being possessed, overpowered, or carried along by some force greater than oneself.
  5. A heightened perception of sounds, sights, and colours.
  6. A heightened sensual experience of sex, touch, and taste.
  7. The ability to live in the present without any care or concern for the past or future.
  8. The ability to be released from all responsibility and restraint and to do whatever one feels like doing.
  9. A mystical or religious experience.

The problems appear over time with long-term abuse, and can lead to all sorts of issues, including:

  1. The loss of the ability to rationally understand things.
  2. The loss of contact with the normal world and sense perception.
  3. The loss of any accurate perception of the size, shape, or colour of objects.
  4. The inability to perceive differences between objects.
  5. The loss of sense of self and its identity.
  6. The loss of the awareness of time.
  7. The loss of consciousness of the past and its importance.
  8. The loss of consciousness of the future and its goals.
  9. The inability to give sustained attention.
  10. The inability to communicate intelligently.

The social consequences can be massively devastating, including:

  1. The death of family and friends.
  2. Committing crime to pay for a habit.
  3. Stealing from family members and friends.
  4. The loss of children from the Social Services.
  5. A lack of parental responsibility.
  6. Sexually transmitted diseases.
  7. Diseases through sharing needles.
  8. Being shunned by family, friends, and neighbours.

Of course, there are far more consequences than just these. As a rule, drug addicts are inveterate liars, manipulators, and cheats. That is a fact almost without exception. Middle-class Christians, in particular, hate it when I say that, but then they are open to all sorts of abuse from some of the characters around here who will turn on the water works if it means they get a quick score. Churches and Christians are ‘soft targets’ for drug users. They quickly learn how to get with the ‘lingo’—they learn what to say and when to say it—and many Christians, in their naive desperation to do ‘ministry’, often lap up all this stuff and get taken for a gigantic ride.

So, what do we do with chronic drug addicts and liars? What does the Bible have to say on these matters? How do we deal with a guy who has been injecting for 15 years, has robbed every member of his family, is blacklisted by every shop in town, and turns up on our doorstep in floods of tears?

Find out tomorrow.

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