It’s Many Faces – Part I (Dr. George Crabb)
Addiction to alcohol, nicotine, prescription medications, and illegal substances cost Americans upwards of half a trillion dollars a year, considering their combined medical, economic, criminal, and social impact. Every year, abuse of illicit drugs, prescription drugs, and alcohol contributes to the death of more than 100,000 Americans, while tobacco is linked to an estimated 440,000 deaths per year.
People of all ages suffer the harmful consequences of addiction. Not only is the addicted affected by their drug abuse, but their families and friends bear the brunt of this burden as well. Ministries have been devastated by the addiction of its leadership and even its membership.
#1 Babies – babies exposed to legal and illegal drugs in the womb may be born premature and underweight. This drug exposure can slow the child’s intellectual development and affect behavior later in life.
#2 Adolescents – adolescents who abuse drugs often act out, do poorly academically, drop out of school, and stop attending church. They are at risk of unplanned pregnancies, violence, and infectious diseases, like HIV and Hepatitis C.
#3 Adults – adults who abuse drugs often have problems thinking clearly, remembering, and paying attention. They also develop poor social behaviors as a result of the drug abuse, and their work performance, personal relationships, and ministries suffer.
#4 Parents – parents’ drug abuse often means chaotic, stress-filled homes and child abuse and neglect. Such conditions harm the well-being and development of children in their home and may set the stage for drug abuse in the next generation by teaching their children how to make wrong, ungodly decisions. By their actions they show their children that you cope with stress and uncertainty with drugs instead of God’s Word.
The enormous question that faces us today is this: “Is addiction a disease?” The answer is: “NO!” Addiction is not a disease. Addiction is a disorder caused by sin. It is a disorder that can make you very sick both physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It is also the reason many contract diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C. The disorder of addiction is brought on by a bad choice that is followed by many other bad choices. Each bad choice is sin. Addiction is something you continue to do, even though you know it is bad for you.
This disorder caused by addiction is a self-induced disorder of the brain. It is brought on when an individual improperly uses chemical substances and/or destructive behaviors as coping mechanisms to deal with the pain, uncertainty, disappointments, loss, and other like traumas in life.
As this behavior is repeated, physiological changes eventually occur in the brain. These changes further enhance the disorder and compel the individual to use the substance and/or the destructive behavior with greater frequency and intensity. Eventually, the behavior leads to more pain, frustration, fear, uncertainty, and disappointment. The individual becomes trapped in a vicious cycle with unresolved pain as a result of engaging destructive coping mechanisms that were initially meant to alleviate the pain.
Addiction is a process that starts with a choice. That choice allows the manipulation of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain). However, through manipulation of these “feel goods” they are eventually depleted. This results in devastating destruction, depression, and ultimate death. Thus, the chasing of the “high” ends up being a futile struggle to maintain normality.
Why Do People Take Drugs?
In general, people begin taking drugs for a variety of reasons:
#1 To feel good. Most abused drugs produce intense feelings of pleasure. The initial sensation of euphoria is followed by other effects, which differ with the type of drug used. For example, with stimulants such as cocaine, the “high” is followed by feelings of power, self-confidence, and increased energy. In contrast, the euphoria caused by opiates such as heroin is followed by feelings of relaxation and satisfaction.
#2 To feel better. Some people who suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression begin taking drugs in an attempt to lessen the feelings of distress. Stress or an unbalanced life can play a major role in beginning drug use, continuing drug use, or relapse in individuals walking in freedom.
#3 To do better. The increasing pressure that some individuals feel to chemically enhance or improve their athletic or cognitive performance can similarly play a role in initial experimentation and continued drug use.
#4 Curiosity and “because others are doing it.” In this respect adolescents are particularly vulnerable because of the strong influence of peer pressure; they are more likely, for example, to engage in “thrilling” and “daring” behaviors.
Underlying all of the above reasons is a single factor – a bad, ungodly choice to turn to something else rather than to the Lord Jesus Christ. We find all answers to life in Jesus Christ not in some chemical.
If Taking Drugs Makes People Feel Good Or Better, What’s The Problem?
At first, people may perceive what seem to be positive effects with drug use. They also may believe that they can control their use; however, drugs quickly take over. Once you start playing around with the devil, his snare will find its way into your life quickly. As drug use continues, what seemed to be pleasurable becomes misery and drug use becomes necessary for the individual to simply feel “normal.” Drug users reach a point where they seek and take drugs, despite the tremendous problems caused for themselves and their loved ones.
Is Continued Drug Abuse a Voluntary Behavior?
The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary. It is a choice a person makes. There may be many surrounding influences to take the drugs but it ultimately comes down to a choice made by the individual. As drug use continues, brain images from drug-addicted individuals show physical changes in certain areas of the brain. These changes can alter the way the brain works but it is still the individual’s choice whether to take the drug or not.