Genes and Addiction

Genes and Addiction Ozzy OsbourneSince the first sequencing of the human genome in 2003, there have been exhaustive studies of links between the human gene structure and addiction. Discover Magazine published a report on genes and addiction (November 2019 issue) with a summary of the current findings.

The magazine focuses on Ozzy Osbourne, the singer/songwriter and reality TV star who is sometimes called “The Godfather of Heavy Metal.” He is famous for going on binges of alcohol, Vicodin, cocaine, and other drugs that would kill most humans. He has survived to be 70 years old. The question is why Osbourne was able to survive all of this abuse for such a long time. One major factor seems to be a mutation in the ADH4 gene. The ADH4 makes a protein called alcohol dehydrogenase 4, which breaks down alcohol. The researchers have concluded that Osbourne is six times more likely to have an alcohol dependency than the average person because alcohol has a minimal effect on him.

The question arises of what are the links between genes and addiction to alcohol and other substances. The Food and Drug Administration says that one in every 12 adults in the United States suffers from alcohol abuse or dependence. Americans spend $200 million a day on alcohol, and 100,000 people die each year from accidents linked to alcohol. People of East Asian descent have an increase in heart rate when consuming alcohol. That effect is called “Asian Flush” or “alcohol flush reaction.” Researches have also found genetic links to anandamide, which is a brain chemical that affects mood and anxiety. Marijuana doesn’t affect people with mutations that alter the amount of anandamide in the brain.

This newfound information tells us a lot about how mutations have shaped how we behave in our consumption of different chemicals. Obviously, if a person doesn’t consume the chemical, the mutations are not an issue. For some people, this information enables them to justify blaming God for their addiction. There are drugs like disulfiram, which cause people to have an unpleasant reaction to the consumption of alcohol. However, using a drug to counteract a destructive drug is a poor solution to the overall problem.

The mutations that have caused all of this are man-made. The mutations are linked to a variety of human enterprises, including the distillation of alcohol. In the distant past, addition was not much of an issue, because the chemical effect of undistilled alcohol is minimal. Alcohol is a drug, and it needs to be identified as such. God has not caused the mutations, and humans are responsible for virtually all of the drugs that are causing so much pain and destruction.

So there is a connection between genes and addiction, and science is looking for ways to change the human genome to exclude the mutations. The biblical solution is to form a relationship with God that leads us away from the destructive forces around us. At the same time, we need to reach out to those who are struggling with their addictions and help them find a way out of their lifestyle of abuse. Walking in the light (1 John 1) involves a conscious change that leads to a new life (Romans 6). God did not lead us to destructive lifestyles, but He will help us build a newness in our lives if we are willing to turn things over to Him.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Fortnite: Battle Royale and Parents

Fortnite: Battle Royale and Video Games

Every generation has a technology challenge that causes parental anxiety and threatens their relationship with their kids. For boys today the challenge is the video game Fortnite: Battle Royale.

When I was a kid in the 1950s, the technology challenge was television. I remember seeing my first television. When the wealthy neighbors got a color TV, my parents complained that I was gone all the time to watch their color TV. When shows came on that seemed risqué to my parents, there was a crisis. I wanted to watch rock and roll which my parents felt was a “tool of the devil,” even though they were atheists. There was also the development of games. Every store had a pinball machine, and as kids, we found ways to win free games. I missed one whole afternoon of school because I hit the jackpot during my lunch hour that gave me 50 free games.

Todays’ new technology is computers, and the challenge they present is video games. The game getting the most attention now is Fortnite: Battle Royale which is produced by a North Carolina company called Epic and partially owned by Disney. It’s an attractive mix of game design with a persuasive technology designed to shape the behavior of its users. This is mass-market gaming, and it has been the most watched game on Amazon.com’s Twitch network for the past year. Last November people spent 108.9 million hours watching other people play Fortnite. The company makes money by selling costumes called skins and dances called emotes for their avatars to perform. Embellishments sell from $2 to $20. Players buy them with virtual currency called V-Bucks which are sold in packages priced from $9.99 to $99.99.

Since its launch in July of 2017 Fortnite has made more than $2 billion from the sales of virtual goods. Fortnite: Battle Royale is a killing game that is hair raising but earns a “T” rating (meaning okay for Teens) by not showing visible spilled blood or dismembered body parts. Psychologists have identified some 200 persuasive design tricks to make a game addictive. Fortnite: Battle Royale uses a high percentage of those elements in combinations. We old folks may remember how addictive the games were in the past. Games like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, or Frogger did not compare with the far more addictive techniques in the toolbag of Fortnite: Battle Royale.

Scientists are researching whether involvement with video games is connected to substance abuse or compulsive behavior. Gunfights constitute a significant part of Fortnite, and the heavy use of violence concerns many scientists. Parents should be aware of the game and its potential risks. Restricting playing time, and having activities the child likes that pulls him or her away from the game are essential.

Challenges to parenting aren’t new. Parents have always had to be careful about how they react to the difficulties of raising a child. The Bible’s instructions for parents are more needed than ever before. You can’t “train up a child in the way he should go” if the actual chief trainer is a violent video game.

–John N. Clayton © 2019

Sex Addiction – Medical or Moral?

Sex AddictionThe World Health Organization has just released its new International Classification of Diseases. The new classification of sex addiction presents a question. Is it a medical issue or a moral issue?

The WHO identifies compulsive sexual health disorder as “a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behavior.” The lead “expert” on this change is Robert Weiss who says that classifying sexual addiction as a medical issue and not a moral issue “takes it out of religion.”

Weiss and his supporters make comparisons between sexual addiction and gambling, drug, and alcohol addictions. They hope that therapy sessions will solve sexual addiction. Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey are undergoing treatment at a facility for the sexually addicted. It would seem that this change in classification will create a whole new industry.

We would suggest that these comparisons are invalid and that this new system will be used to excuse the sexual abuse that we see on the front page of our newspapers. Sexual abuse involves how we view members of the opposite sex. It has been known for a long time that rape has very little to do with sexual satisfaction. We do not find the most satisfying sexual relationships in abusive sex, premarital sex, or any other sexual conduct outside of marriage to one committed partner. The media and the “experts” are missing the purpose of sex and the beautiful relationship it nurtures between two individuals.

The New Testament trumpets the heart as the central player in relationships, personal conduct, and values. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” Matthew 6:21. “..those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart: and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts… fornications..” Matthew 15:18-19. Sexual conduct IS a moral choice. We are not robots or puppets. Alcohol and drugs can alter the mind and have a very negative impact on the making of right decisions, but how we use our money and our bodies is a different issue.

People who sexually abuse children and members of the opposite sex will be delighted to blame their sex addiction on psychological baggage that others forced upon them. How we conduct our lives and the choices we make are under our control, and while people may excuse aberrant sexual behavior on medical issues, God will not.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: USA Today, July 13, 2018, page A-1.

Marijuana Legalization – The Rest of the Story

Marijuana Legalization
The media has sold the American public on the idea that marijuana cannot hurt anyone and is not habit forming. Proponents argue that marijuana legalization in all 50 states would produce 46 billion dollars in federal sales tax revenue and more than one million jobs by 2025. Polls show that 61% of Americans believe marijuana should be legal.

We are also told that a benefit of marijuana legalization is that the government will control dosage and potency. I can remember when the Food and Drug Administration was making the same claims about the use of tobacco when I was a teenager. We all know the result of the long-term forestalling of government control of the use of tobacco. Dr. Sharon Levy who is the director of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program at Boston Children’s Hospital says, “We are simply not prepared for the fallout of marijuana legalization.”

Here are the known facts about marijuana:

*The concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is roughly 40 times stronger in today’s “weed” than the “grass” of the 1970s.

*Claims that marijuana is not addictive are simply lies. One out of every six teens who smoke marijuana become addicted to it.

*Studies of teens while smoking marijuana show that there is a significant change in the brain. There is a change in the nucleus accumbens, the part of the brain that affects motivation and learning.

*Studies of long-time users show long-term memory loss, a drop in IQ points equal to lead poisoning, and deterioration in the language areas.

*Studies show that teens who frequently smoked pot were less likely to hold full-time jobs as adults, less likely to get married, and less likely to finish their education.

*Since Colorado legalized the drug, marijuana-related visits to emergency rooms and urgent care centers have tripled among those under 21.

Those of us who follow Jesus Christ believe that the body is the “Temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 3:16). The Bible tells us to take care of the body, and that certainly means not taking a recreational drug that we know damages our bodies. Alcohol, nicotine, and pot damage the temple of God, and we must stand opposed to their use.

The chemicals in marijuana that can ease pain and help those in distress are not what we are talking about in this discussion. Paul told Timothy to “use a little wine to help you to get over your frequent spells of illness” (1 Timothy 5:23). We need to use our intelligence and apply the things God has given us wisely as we consider marijuana legalization. Using any substance in a way that does damage to our body and alters our ability to think and react wisely and constructively is wrong.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data and quotes from Reader’s Digest, July 8, 2018 pages 78-82.

The Drug Alcohol–Worse than Previously Believed

Christians are told to take care of their bodies because they are the temple (dwelling place) of the Holy Spirit and we should not defile that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) We are also told to stay away from “all appearance of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:22) I am always amazed when I hear people who claim to be Christians trying to justify the use of alcohol when there is so much data to show how evil and destructive it is. A recent report from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that “alcohol is the second most deadly drug in the United States, behind only tobacco.” Between 2002 and 2014 alcohol deaths increased by 37% in the United States. Alcohol now accounts for more fatalities than overdoses from prescription painkillers and heroin combined. The Center also reports that alcohol is a direct cause of seven forms of cancer. Most people are not even aware that alcohol use contributes to cancer, but the data is very clear. Data from The Week, December 23/30 2016, page 27.
–John N. Clayton © 2017