Is the idea of treating addiction as a disease preventing addicts from overcoming their problems? Daily Telegraph writer and recovering alcoholic Damian Thompson, who has written a new book on the subject, explains that what worries him is the way addicted behaviour is “spreading around society”.
“There is an acceleration of addictiveness”, he told the Today programme. “Impulsivity”, he said, “is becoming the default style of the cognitive elite”.
Colin Blakemore, professor of neuroscience at Oxford University, said there is a “biological basis” for addiction, although there are problems with providing a definition.
“Look at the word – dis-ease – not at ease with one’s life… that characterises the problems of alcohol,” he said.
This short, but fascinating, interview can be found here.
In Niddrie, we teach our people that all addiction has its roots in choice. Somewhere, back in time, if we trace each person’s life story back far enough, a choice was made to indulge in a certain type of behaviour. It is a fact, admitted by Professor Blakemore in this conversation, that the medical world cannot prove that addiction to drugs/alcohol/porn etc. is a disease with any degree of accuracy.
The Bible, on the other hand, is clear on what causes these problems in the lives of so many people. “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other . . .” (Gal. 5:17).
Many of our people say they do what they do because of boredom, avoidance, blocking out pain, and fun (in the beginning at least). But, the reality is, they do it because it feeds their selfish, slavish, lustful desires to please themselves. Yes, many of them are now hopelessly, chemically controlled by their behaviour and there are no easy solutions to their complete physical and psychological dependence. But, bottom line, all of their behaviour can be traced back to a root choice and decision. They sought out and found their addiction. It did not choose them. They are not the ‘innocent’ party carried along by forces outside of their control.
So, what does the Bible have to say on these matters? Quite a lot, actually. Consider the following:
- 1 Thessalonians 5:6–8 – Being sober is the opposite of being drunk and is associated with being alert and watchful.
- 1 Peter 1:13–17 – Be sober, gird up the loins of your mind so you can avoid lusts and be obedient and holy. This requires being alert.
- 1 Peter 5:8–9 – Be sober so we can be on guard for the devil, resist him, and not be devoured by him. Realising how dangerous Satan is, we should keep our minds clear so we can recognise his deceit and resist his temptations.
- 1 Corinthians 9:25–27 – Bring our bodies into subjection to our minds, exercising temperance (self-control) like athletes in training, so our bodies will be properly guided by our minds.
- Proverbs 4:23 – Keep your heart (mind) with all diligence because it must decide the issues of life.
Struggling against evil is difficult and dangerous at best, even with the clearest of faculties. That is why God has forbidden intoxication. Of course, there are other ways to violate these principles, but drug abuse is surely one way.
Interestingly, in biblical times, drug taking was very closely associated with sorcery and witchcraft, which is why I think the Bible is so clear on being stable minded in everything we do (2 Tim. 1:7; 1 Pet. 4:1–7; Tit. 2:2,4,6,12; Acts 24:25; Gal. 5:23; 2 Pet. 1:6)
W.E. Vine, in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words 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.”
This was certainly my experience in Brasil when we worked with young addicts there. Brasilian spiritism (Macumba and Candomble) mixed drug taking with ‘inviting spirits’ into your life. The result? Mental health issues, abuse, suicide, and murder on an epidemic scale in that part of the world.
Addiction, in all its forms, is destructive. It is greedy and feeds the selfish desire for constantly wanting more. It is never satisfied and kills people without mercy. Consider the following poem, based on Psalm 23, written by a young girl who died of an overdose.
Heroin is my shepherd. I shall always want. He maketh me to lie down in the
He leadeth me beside the troubled waters. He destroyeth my soul.
He leadeth me in the paths of wickedness.
Yea, I shall walk through the valley of poverty and will fear no evil, for thou, Heroin, are with me.
Thy Needle and Capsule comfort me. Thou strippest the table of groceries in the presence of my family. Thou robbest my head of reason.
My cup of sorrow runneth over. Surely heroin addiction shall stalk me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the House of the Damned forever.”
Part of the Christian church’s response to drugs should be to resist any & all calls for legalisation. Many Christians are horribly naive on this issue. There is an interesting article entitled, “Legalized Drugs: Dumber Than You May Think,” (written from a secular viewpoint) that is worth reading, here.
So, how do we deal with the problem in our churches? Is the answer sending everybody away to rehab? If addicts can be helped, how do we do it?
More practical advice to follow.