The most destructive recreational drug on the planet is alcohol. The consequences of alcohol consumption are more than tragic accidents. New research on alcohol consumption during pregnancy indicates that the damage of alcohol is more pervasive than anyone believed ten years ago.
Researchers at the University of Vienna have revealed their fetal development studies showing that even one glass of wine a week by the mother can significantly reduce her baby’s brain development. The major damage was in the right superior temporal sulcus. That region of the brain involves social cognition and language development.
As the world moves toward acceptance of marijuana as a recreational drug, we can expect to see more problems with the development of children. As the adoptive parent of a child whose biological mother had not used good judgment during her pregnancy, I know the problems caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
With careless environmental pollution and recreational drugs, having a healthy baby is more of a challenge than ever before. When our son was diagnosed with numerous congenital problems, some people told us it was God’s doing. We can’t expect God to constantly be undoing what we have done to ourselves, both individually and collectively.
The world is in the process of legalizing destructive behavior by allowing the recreational use of drugs that cause incredible suffering to all people. Skeptics say we should allow the use of recreational drugs by pointing to the “failure” of prohibition, which banned the sale of alcoholic drinks in the United States. However, prohibition saw a significant reduction in murder, divorce, drunk driving, and abuse of all kinds. The fact that alcohol promoters used underhanded ways to make alcohol available does not change the fact that prohibition positively affected society in general.
Now we are seeing the legalization of recreational marijuana. California led the way in 2016, and other states are following. We are not talking about the controlled use of cannabis in medical applications or the treatment of mental illness. One of the arguments for legalizing marijuana was that it would put illegal sellers out of business. But, the Los Angeles Times reports that “the exact opposite is happening now.” The newspaper said, “It has spread crime into rural areas and turned local politics across the state into a morass of corruption.”
The paper reported that local politicians are demanding six-figure bribes for growing licenses as the use of marijuana has become more widespread. “Illegal and completely unregulated” growing operations have popped up across California, overwhelming law enforcement. “Heavily armed camps filled with violent armed men, often tied to cartels, now dot the countryside.” In addition, the paper said that the legal trade is threatened because cannabis prices from illegal sources have dropped so low.
Satan is alive and well on planet Earth. The result is always catastrophic when Christians sit back in complacency while states are legalizing destructive behavior that hurts others and goes against God’s instructions for how we should live.
We live in a time of incredible advances in chemistry and medicine. However, we face the problem of chemical and medical side effects from modern drugs and food additives. Therefore, a medication designed to address one problem will often create other unexpected issues. I can give personal testimony to that.
I have blood pressure issues that are hereditary and a product of my age. For two years, doctors tried various medications to lower my blood pressure, but nothing worked. Finally, a doctor found a new drug that does work. My hypertension is under control, and I am thankful for that. This new drug, in conjunction with some previous medications, together with my new regime of exercise and eating habits, has greatly reduced my risk for a stroke.
The problem with this new medication is that it has side effects that were unknown when I started taking it. It affects my vision, balance, breathing, and sleep. When I complained to my doctor, who likes to be a comedian, he said, “Well do you want to die of a stroke or the side effects?”
We also have chemical and medical side effects from food additives and drinks. People in Christ’s day used fermented grape juice because the water was unsafe to drink. The “wine” available then had a very low percentage of alcohol, around 4%. Today, distillation processes allow the alcohol percentage to be vastly higher, and alcohol poisoning is a significant issue. Recently in Missouri, 19-year-old Daniel Santulli suffered severe brain damage after being forced to drink alcohol as part of hazing during a pledge reveal party for the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. When I was a fraternity pledge at Indiana University, my fellow pledges were forced to drink alcohol until they could no longer walk. Then they were then driven to a remote country road and dropped off.
Now the college drug of choice is marijuana. Modern marijuana has levels of THC (the drug responsible for psychoactive effects) 15% higher than in the 1970s. British studies show that these high THC levels increase the probability of addiction. We are now seeing fatal accidents caused by marijuana, as Newsweek reports that car accident rates have risen in states after legalizing marijuana sales. Science has not adequately studied the long-term side effects of marijuana.
In addition to drugs, people use food additives and supplements without scientific studies exploring their long-term side effects. God has given us plants and substances such as alcohol that we can use to alleviate human suffering. However, chemical and medical side effects are likely to increase suffering when we use them as untested recreational drugs or food additives.
We tend to think that drinking and the effects of alcohol are a problem for young people and middle-aged adults. There is no question that alcohol is the most destructive drug in today’s world. However, the view that young people need to avoid distilled alcoholic drinks but it is okay for seniors is dead wrong. We see much pain and suffering in our world today from different sources, but there is no reason for seniors using alcohol and adding to the problems that come with age.
Starting at about age 50, the average adult loses muscle, gains fat, and carries less water in the bloodstream. That means that seniors using alcohol may be more affected because it is less diluted than in younger people. In addition, the stomach and liver don’t produce as much of the enzyme called ADH, which processes alcohol. As a result, a person may not be aware that the alcohol content in their body is higher than in the past, and they may not realize the damaging effects. Our ability to perceive the effects of alcohol also diminishes after age 50, so we may ignore changes in vision, balance, and hearing caused by alcohol.
For seniors using alcohol, the aging process can be accelerated because it pulls water from your body. It also causes the shrinking of the brain, especially the cortex, which controls our executive function. In addition, Dr. George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, says that over 200 medical conditions are made worse by the consumption of alcohol. These include but are not limited to cancer, immune system disorders, liver problems, stroke, and diabetes.
There is a lot of literature blaming God for the age-related disabilities inflicting our world. While not drinking at all doesn’t guarantee a person won’t have health issues, a very high percentage of age-related diseases are impacted by the abuse we tend to heap on our bodies. That abuse includes not only alcohol but recreational drugs and nicotine. For Christians, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16), and we need to take care of that temple. Learning how to do that is vital for all of us.
The dictionary defines an intoxicant as “that which produces feelings of pleasure or happiness in a person.” America is becoming a land of intoxicants. The enormous success of science and technology has given our culture a comfortable lifestyle and a sense of security. The illusion of self-sufficiency is constantly reinforced by Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and even many churches.
In the meantime, our culture is rejecting the words of Ephesians 5:15-18 despite the evidence that they are true: “Look carefully how you walk. Do not act thoughtlessly, but like sensible men. Make the most of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days. You can not afford to be reckless but understand what the will of the Lord is. Don’t get your stimulus from wine but let the Spirit stimulate your souls.”
America is becoming a land of intoxicants lagging behind other countries in recognizing the destructive nature of substance abuse. The American entertainment industry pushes alcohol. Even country music, which used to emphasize the negative effects of alcohol, is now saturated with promoting it as a way to pleasure and happiness. The destructive nature of alcohol is astounding. Biotech Investor’s Journal for September 2021 published a research report on the harm caused by alcohol compared to 20 other recreational drugs. Alcohol ranks # 1 in harmful effects, far beyond LSD, Meth, Crack Cocaine, and Heroin.
Some countries have recognized the serious consequences of alcohol and have passed laws to control it. For example, Scotland and Sweden have passed stringent laws to mitigate the use of alcohol. In America, the maximum blood alcohol content allowed for a motorist is 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood or .08%. In Scotland, the limit is .05%, with penalties of the automatic loss of license, fines up to $7000, a criminal record, and possibly a prison sentence. In Sweden, the limit is .02%.
For some who claim to be Christians, their religious experience may be an intoxicant. The desire to find an intoxicant in Church has led to the prosperity gospel, which teaches that God will supply wealth (materialism) to His children. Other intoxicants for some religious people are emotional experiences of speaking in tongues or even out-of-the-body experiences.
The Bible’s description of successful Christian living involves recognizing that Satan controls activities on Earth (1 John 5:19). If we are looking for heaven on Earth, we are in for disappointment and pain. The Bible indicates that the influence of Satan is all around us. (See 1 Corinthians 15:33; James 1:27, 4:4; 2 Peter 1:4, 2:20; 1 John 2:15-17.)
As America is becoming a land of intoxicants, people learn that using intoxication to find pleasure and happiness doesn’t work. However, being a light in a dark world (Matthew 5:14; Philippians 2:14-15) brings contentment and satisfaction that not only leads to a meaningful existence on the Earth but ultimately to eternal joy and happiness with our Lord.
One of the most famous authors on the world literary scene was Leo Tolstoy. He is probably best known for War and Peace but is well respected for his other novels. In 1890 Tolstoy wrote an essay titled, “Why Do Men Stupefy Themselves?” For Tolstoy, “stupefacients” were anything that interfered with the rigorous application of a person’s conscience, and he believed they caused most human problems. Tolstoy’s list of stupefacients included wine, beer, spirits, narcotics, and tobacco.
The Bible agrees with Tolstoy. Numerous Old Testament passages tell of trouble coming from the use of alcohol. (For example, see Genesis 9:20-24, Leviticus 10:9, Deuteronomy 29:6, and Judges 13:4-7.) The condemnation of alcohol use in passages like Proverbs 20:1 and 23:21 make it clear this is not God’s will for us to stupefy ourselves with alcohol. There is no product of humanity that has caused more misery, ill health, disruption, and violence than alcohol.
So here we are in 2021, legalizing another stupefacient. We already see the ill effects of the use of marijuana, and yet 70% of all Americans support the legalization of recreational pot. Nearly 80% of people in the 18-29 age category support it. Celebrities like Willie Nelson, Cheech and Chong, Woody Harrelson, and Bill Maher have promoted marijuana as a way to find peace in a confusing world.
People made similar claims about alcohol when prohibition was the law. The promoters of alcohol won, and the result of the legalization of alcohol brought in tax dollars. At the same time, it has cost far more in alcohol-related accidents, broken homes, and broken lives. The legalization of marijuana is also riding on the claim of increased tax dollars.
Tolstoy was a Russian writing in the late 19th century, and he was unsuccessful in turning Russia away from the use of stupefacients. The Russian Republic was destroyed and replaced with Communism with dictators like Lenin and Stalin. The question is, “Will America survive our 21st-century involvement with stupefacients?”
We see articles in the media about the benefits of using alcohol and marijuana, but the actual data does not support those claims. Here in Michigan, marijuana was approved for recreational use in January of 2020. The state has just released data for OWI (Operating While Impaired) cases since that time. The state records show a 73% increase in “cannabinoid-involved” crashes in 2020.
Another area of concern is the increased use of alcohol. There have been reports that drinking in moderation is beneficial to the body. A study by researchers from the University of Oxford seems to dispute that. The study of 25,000 people who reported alcohol intake shows disturbing effects of any amount of alcohol. The study focused on the effect of drinking on gray matter in the brain, involving regions that process information. The study showed that the more people drank, the lower their volume of gray matter. Gray matter decreases with age and dementia but adding the effect of alcohol speeds up the process.
The conclusion of the Oxford research was there is “no safe level of drinking.” The researchers say that damage to the brain is greater than damage from having a high BMI or smoking. Of course, there are other concerns, such as the effect on the heart and lungs, but drinking is a significant factor as far as brain damage is concerned.
Distilled alcohol and marijuana are recreational drugs that were unknown in the time of the Old Testament. Distillation has given alcohol greater potency, and the production of new sources of THC for recreational use is a more modern production of drugs used to escape the problems of life.
God’s solutions to human struggles have never involved anything destructive to humans. As our culture has become more atheistic, people have looked for substitutes for spiritual help and support. The use of alcohol and marijuana has resulted in an increase in mental problems of all kinds.
We have frequently pointed out that a massive percentage of the pain and death people experience is directly related to their choices in life. If you don’t believe in God, what do you use for support when you hit the usual frustrations in life? My brother Jim bought into my parent’s atheistic beliefs. For much of his life, he lived as an atheist.
When my youngest brother grew frustrated with the everyday struggles of life, alcohol became his tool for coping. That caused him to be unable to help others or find meaningful companionship. When he struggled with his normal sexual drives, he did not believe that marriage was the only way those feelings could be satisfied. My brother’s marriage failed because of his alcohol use, and it also seriously affected his relationship with his two sons.
My brother Jim was fired from his first teaching job because his alcohol use affected how he dealt with his students. One of his sons and I pleaded with him to realize what alcohol was doing to him, and gradually he began to move away from his addiction. He eventually got involved in Alcoholics Anonymous, started studying the Bible, and carried on extensive conversations with me about the existence of God.
I finally convinced my brother Jim to go with me and a group of 50 Christians as we toured the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, and the Canyonlands. In addition to showing evidence that the Bible accurately describes Earth’s history as revealed in these places, we all engaged in singing hymns, praying for one another, and studying God’s Word. At the end of the trip, my brother admitted that he could not be an atheist anymore and that he saw the validity of Christianity.
What do people in our culture do to relieve the pains that come in life? The use of drugs, including alcohol, has skyrocketed in my lifetime. Developing a relationship with God and working with those of like faith to establish a realistic approach to failure and frustration is not on the radar for much of our culture. As people reject God, ridiculing the Bible, and questioning its relevance to the struggles of life, the problems they experience have grown. The ultimate result of this is a massive increase in health issues related to drug use and an enormous rise in legal problems, including prison terms. More than half of the prisoners studying our correspondence courses are in prison because they abused drugs.
Unfortunately, the use of alcohol and the destructive nature of my brother’s early atheistic beliefs had consequences on his relationships and health. He had marginal relationships with family, had few friends, and never found the kind of joy that Christians have when they follow God’s Word. In addition, his health had been compromised by his use of alcohol. On May 28, he died from all the damage alcohol had done in the past. Living the Christian way of life is essential to give the hope of eternal life and to give us the very best things that this life can bring. My brother Jim is a case history that demonstrates that fact in vivid, realistic terms.
Yesterday we looked at the definition of the word “faith.” The Bible defines faith as the foundation (Greek “hupostasis”) of our lives (Hebrews 11:1). We mentioned that we all have faith in gravity. We also saw how the scientific faith that light is a wave and not a particle had to change as new evidence became available. All of us have foundations that rule our lives, and faith or lack of faith in God is one of them.
Even our understanding of what God is affects us in a variety of ways.* In the distant past, people thought of gods as physical beings that looked like humans. Roman and Greek gods were humans with superpowers of one kind or another. Some people today still view God as a human with human emotions and desires. Experiences in life can weaken or destroy that kind of faith. When someone rejects faith in God because of a tragedy in life, the root cause of that rejection is a flawed concept of what God is.
Faith or lack of faith in God can determine the foundation of our lives. The question that we must ask is, “What is the foundation (faith) on which I base my life?” For my father, who was an atheist, the foundation of his life was education. His father was a minister, and that faith did not appeal to him as a way to build his life. Instead, he pursued the highest level of education possible, achieving a Ph.D. in philosophy at Columbia University under one of the leading educators in his field. Then he became a full professor at Indiana University and was recognized as one of the top experts in his field.
After a long career with numerous awards and recognitions, my father retired. Did all of these achievements and recognitions provide a foundation for him? A regular activity for my father was to engage in a cocktail hour. He dealt with the stress and frustration of his work by drinking. My father was not socially active. He went to social affairs only because he had to, and alcohol was the foundation, the lubricant which enabled him to function socially.
Shortly after his retirement, my father developed leukemia. Going through the brutal treatments available at that time was tragic and agonizing to watch. The end of his life was a constant battle to survive, and the treatments eventually killed him. Death was the ultimate tragedy because he died without hope of anything better.
The other problem with my father’s faith was what his foundation did to and for my mother and my two brothers. My mother was forced to become the social director of the family. Social events were her life, and achieving recognition from her peers was her foundation. After my father died, she became the leader of the retirement center where she lived. She commanded the respect of everyone there, including the management and staff. This became her foundation, and her faith was that it would continue. When she suffered a stroke and was moved to the care center, she was not even allowed to eat with her peers, much less play a role in the retirement center’s social events. She was so mortified and miserable in her new situation that I had to move her 200 miles from the retirement center to a facility near me. She was miserable there as well.
My parents had a dependence on alcohol as a foundation for life and a faith that it would make everything else function normally. This rubbed off on the rest of the family. Like many people in today’s world, the negative destroyed not only my father’s faith but my mother and brother’s faith as well. Faith or lack of faith in God will determine the course of your life. In tomorrow’s discussion, we will look at how we can build a workable faith.
As our culture drifts farther from God, drugs become a substitute for spirituality. The drug receiving the most attention at the start of 2020 is marijuana. The compound in marijuana that causes users to get high is THC. Seeking peace in THC, alcohol, and other drugs does not fill the spiritual void.
The United States farm bill passed in 2018 mandated that plants containing less than .3% THC would be considered hemp. Those plants containing more than .3% would be regarded as marijuana, which remains, for the moment, an illegal, controlled substance. People now use cannabidiol (CBD) in a wide range of products, including pain medications, stress relievers, and sleep enhancers. THC is also found inadvertently in some products, and there is no way to tell the difference between THC in CBD oil and in recreational marijuana.
In random drug testing, THC may show up even if the subject only used a CBD oil. If the employer has a policy of firing anyone who tests positive for THC, that person would be dismissed. USA Today (January 21, 2020, Section B 1) carried a story about a school bus driver in Salt Lake City who was fired because she tested positive for THC. She had used CBD to help her sleep and to relieve stress.
Research may lead to some beneficial applications of THC, when used carefully and in a controlled way. The massive demand for cannabidiol products and the pressure to make recreational marijuana legal is an indication of the unhappiness and misery that people in our culture are experiencing. When we were traveling in Ireland several years ago, our guide commented on how unhappy people are there as alcohol has replaced faith in God. The same thing is happening in America today. Seeking peace in THC, alcohol, and other drugs is no substitute for God, but massive numbers of people have turned to these faith substitutes. A brief “high” is no substitute for lasting, faithful joyfulness.
The Bible is full of references to the desire God has for us to experience joy and happiness. The Psalms encouraged followers of God to be joyful. (See Psalms 5:11, 63:5, and 149:5-6.) In Luke 10:17, when the disciples found they had the power to help people, they “returned with joy.” In John 16:20-24, Jesus talks about finding “joy that no man can take from you.” In Romans 15:13, Paul says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Galatians 5:22 tells us that joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit.
People look for peace, joy, happiness, and satisfaction in all the wrong places. Seeking peace in THC, alcohol, and other drugs is not a long-term solution. The fact that I can be content, at peace, and able to find joy and beauty in spite of the massive problems I have experienced, builds my faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. No drug high of any kind gives the lasting contentment that I find in my relationship with Christ. I have looked in both places, and the evidence is clear.