Some scenarios such as the club scene are synonymous with recreational and other drugs. Often the consumption of drugs and alcohol is portrayed as sophisticated or the hallmark of freedom from convention and boredom.
While society sometimes makes light of alcohol and drugs, the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse are dire. It’s important to understand how it can derail your life. For those that are caught in the mesh of drug and alcohol abuse, there are viable and effective treatments available to begin recovering good health.
What does it mean to abuse drugs and alcohol?
For Christians, life is guided largely by what the Bible says. The Bible presents a sophisticated view of alcohol and how it functions in our lives. From the Hebrew worldview, wine is a blessing that can be easily abused, so it requires wisdom and self-control to handle well.
One of many passages that talk about the blessing that wine is included in this poetry from Psalms:
You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart – Psalm 104:14-15, ESV
On the other hand, there is wisdom literature that suggests that wine can wreak havoc in a person’s life. In a couplet of sayings that appear toward the end of the book of Proverbs, we read these words:
The picture painted about alcohol is a complex one. Warnings are clearly stated, and yet there is room to celebrate the many gifts God gives humanity, which includes wine.
Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper – Proverbs 23:29-32, NIV
This same theme carries on throughout the Bible, where we encounter wisdom that may be relevant to one’s considerations about what constitutes drug and alcohol abuse. Speaking about what we do with our bodies sexually, Paul said this to the Christians in the city of Corinth:
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body… Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies – 1 Corinthians 6:12-13; 19-20, NIV
Paul made a similar argument when speaking about whether it was okay to eat foods connected with idol worship. He wrote, ‘“I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive.” (1 Corinthians 10: 23, NIV).
Paul’s basic argument is that for the Christian, even if legal or cultural permission exists to do certain things, there are bigger considerations at play. It’s important to remain free so that believers can serve Christ with their bodies and lives.
If they become mastered by anything, whether sex, food and presumably drugs and alcohol as well, they aren’t living in line with the freedom (and responsibility) they’ve received from God.
You have the freedom to do everything, but not everything benefits you. Drugs and alcohol often stand in the way of sober-minded judgment. For many, they ought to be avoided altogether because of their deleterious effects on physical and spiritual health.
Drug and alcohol abuse can take on a few key meanings. On one level, abusing drugs and alcohol implies using them in ways that were never intended. This means either taking too much of something, or using it incorrectly for the prescribed purpose. For example, cough syrup is designed to help one deal with respiratory issues, but because of some of the ingredients in some cough medications, some people use it as a substitute for alcohol.
Abuse also means using drugs and alcohol in such a way that they gain mastery over you. When you are not using them as prescribed and become dependent on them for daily functioning, that is problematic and a sign of addiction. Using alcohol or prescription drugs to make it through your day or to unwind is probably a sign that they have mastery over you.
For some people, gaining access to and consuming drugs and/or alcohol is their primary driving force in life, and other priorities fall by the wayside. If drugs and alcohol stand in the way of you cultivating a fervent love for God and your neighbor with all that you have and are, then they are problematic.
Some drugs possess specific properties that make them highly addictive, even in small doses. Opioid prescription pain medications, for instance, are a class of drugs that includes oxycodone, heroin, morphine, methadone, fentanyl, and codeine.
These are often highly addictive because of how they alter brain chemistry and activate the brain’s reward centers. With such drugs, legitimate and prescribed use can turn to abuse because of how addictive they are.
Signs of drug and alcohol abuse.
Drug and alcohol abuse manifests in one’s behavior as well as in physical symptoms that accompany that abuse. Knowing the signs of substance abuse is a huge help in identifying the problem and taking the necessary next steps to seek treatment.
Drug and alcohol abuse has physical, behavioral, and psychological signs, including the following:
- You don’t use the drugs as prescribed and for their intended purpose. You consume drugs or alcohol over the prescribed amount.
- Mood swings, increased irritability, or outbursts of anger.
- You can’t stop using those substances, even if their use is causing havoc in your life. If your use of alcohol or drugs has had negative effects in your life such as leading you to lose your job, damaged relationships, or getting you in trouble with the law, but you just can’t seem to stop, that’s a sign of abuse.
- You’ve suffered significant negative health impacts because of using those particular drugs or alcohol.
- Appearing spaced out, having bloodshot or glazed eyes.
- Using alcohol or drugs in dangerous circumstances, such as while driving. Engaging in unsafe practices such as using unsterilized needles or unprotected sex while under the influence.
- Being fearful, paranoid, or anxious without good reason. Engaging in secretive and suspicious behaviors
- Productivity at home or work has suffered due to your use of alcohol or drugs, and this includes neglect of responsibilities such as childcare, home maintenance, school, etc.
- Significant changes in sleep and eating patterns.
- Borrowing or stealing money to get access to alcohol and/or drugs.
- Slurred speech, tremors, and impaired coordination.
- Periods with unusual bursts of energy, instability, or nervousness.
- Dental issues and having unusual odors from one’s mouth or skin.
- Sudden changes in the people groups with whom you associate.
- Abrupt weight loss or gain.
- Unexplained changes in one’s personality or attitude toward life.
- Involvement in criminal activity.
- Having a lack of motivation, being tired.
- The decline in self-care and personal hygiene.
- Becoming defensive when asked about the use of alcohol or drugs.
Alcohol is one of the more widely abused substances in the United States. Many different kinds of drugs are available legally and otherwise, including inhalants, synthetic drugs, hallucinogens, and club drugs like ketamine, barbiturates, and stimulants.
If you see these signs in yourself or a loved one, seek help as soon as possible because early intervention gives the highest chances of successful recovery. Some individuals can function when under the influence of alcohol, for example, and they may hide the signs of abuse or addiction. Over time, however, it gets harder to hide what’s going on.
Some people begin their journey to drug and alcohol abuse because of experimentation, while for other people their normal usage of prescribed medications led gradually toward abuse and addiction. While the use of alcohol and some drugs gives one a sense of euphoria and escape, there are various physiological, relational, and other substantially negative effects of drug and alcohol abuse.
The outlook for those struggling with drug and alcohol abuse is good, as there are treatments available. The more effective methods of treatment involve both medical detoxes to manage withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, and therapy.
Therapy helps to address the underlying issues that are connected to the abuse of alcohol or drugs. Medical detox helps to stabilize patients while minimizing the effects of withdrawal. A successful medical detox prepares a person to enter a rehabilitation program where they will receive ongoing care to help them reenter everyday life without substance abuse.
Therapy isn’t only for the person struggling with drug and alcohol abuse; their family also needs support to help them effectively stand alongside their loved one. It’s important to show empathy and understanding toward the loved one with substance abuse issues, and those skills can be learned through counseling.
If you or a loved one have concerns about substance abuse, reach out to a health professional today for more information and to begin journeying toward freedom from alcohol or drug abuse.
“Tearful”, Courtesy of Kat J, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “The Pages of Holy Writ”, Courtesy of Timothy Eberly, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Chains”, Courtesy of Eyasu Etsub, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Summit”, Courtesy of Pablo Heimplatz, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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