When people hear about "drug abuse," images of addicts buying cocaine, heroin, etc., from shady looking dealers in dark places comes to mind for most. However, the acceptance of drugs has become rampant in recent years. As of January 2022, nineteen (19) states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, going a long way in making the acceptance of substance abuse a reality. This is but one example of the law making something evil appear good, or at least morally neutral.
I fully support the use of psychotropic medication for those who have serious mental issues or traumatic events from which they need to recover. Nevertheless, it is abuse when people think that being unhappy about something jejune requires mind-altering drugs. According to the CDC, "During 2015–2018, 13.2% of Americans aged 18 and over reported taking antidepressant medication in the past 30 days. Antidepressant use was higher among women than men in every age group. Use increased with age, in both men and women. Almost one-quarter of women aged 60 and over (24.3%) took antidepressants." (See https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db377.htm#:~:text=%2C%202009%E2%80%932018.-,Summary,men%20in%20every%20age%20group.). The answer to life's adversities is not to be found in a medicine bottle.
This post will give the Church's teaching on drugs and the theological implications for our times.
The Teaching of the Church Regarding Drugs
According to theologian Jone, "Since morphine, opium, chloroform and similar drugs can also deprive one of the use of his reason temporarily, that which was said of intoxicating drinks holds also for narcotics. To use narcotics in small quantities and only occasionally, is a venial sin if done without a sufficient reason. Any proportionately good reason justifies their use, e.g., to calm the nerves, dispel insomnia, etc. Such use becomes gravely sinful if it creates an habitual craving for 'dope' which is more difficult to overcome than dipsomania and more injurious to health. To use drugs in greater quantities so as to lose the use of one's reason is itself a mortal sin; but for a good reason it is permissible. Such a good reason is had in case of an operation, i.e., that the patient be rendered insensible to intense pain, or that one might remain calm under the knife. In like manner one may administer opiates to one who is suffering greatly in order to alleviate his pain." (See Moral Theology, , pgs. 57-58; Emphasis mine).
Since narcotics are under the same general rule as alcohol, here's what moral theologian O'Connell has to say about the loss of reason: "It is not requisite...[to] be rendered utterly stupid and helpless...[rather] that one would do things inordinate which otherwise he would not do...The malice of drunkenness consists in the fact that, without a sufficient reason, a person in a violent way deprives himself of the use of the noblest of his faculties." (See Outlines of Moral Theology, , pg. 168; Emphasis mine).
As you keep in mind these principles of Church teaching, also consider that we know so much more about the effects of drugs today than when theologians O'Connell and Jone were writing in the late 1950s-early 1960s. Then came the Great Apostasy and the drug culture of the late 1960s. I can only imagine how Church teaching would have further developed on this issue in light of all we now understand.
Drug Abuse and Health
Here are the facts:
- 40 million Americans ages 12 and older have substance problems. Addiction and substance abuse affect more Americans than heart conditions, diabetes or cancer
- 75% of all high school students have used addictive substances, including cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana or cocaine; 1 in 5 has a substance problem
- Almost half (46%) of all high school students currently use addictive substances
- 46% of children under age 18 live in a household where someone age 18 or older is smoking, drinking excessively, misusing prescription drugs or using illegal drugs
- Addiction, substance use and abuse are the largest preventable and most costly health problems facing the U.S. today, responsible for more than 20% of deaths in the U.S.
- Addiction, substance use and abuse cause or contribute to more than 70 other conditions requiring medical care, including cancer, respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS, pregnancy complications, cirrhosis, ulcers and trauma, and account for one-third of all hospital in-patient costs
Drugs and the Occult
In the 1960s, Timothy Leary, "the Pied Piper of Harvard," led mesmerized youth into spiritual experiences that materialistic scientism had told them did not exist. Leary’s LSD (and other psychedelics) turned out to be the launching pad for mind trips "beyond the physical universe of time, space, and matter" to a strange dimension where anything was possible. For millions it was a “mind-blowing” experience that forever changed their lives.
The drugs of abusers put people into an altered state of consciousness; hence, the attraction. Those of you who read my series of posts called "Singing For Satan" (published August 2017-August 2019), know that almost all of the musicians were drug users, and most claimed contact/inspiration from "spirits"--Eminem, The Eagles, etc. They used drugs and entered into an altered state of consciousness which makes one susceptible (like hypnosis) to demonic forces. So-called "shamans" (pagan "witch-doctors") take drugs for this very reason; it enables them to make "contact with the spirits." Leary called the Beatles “the four evangelists.” Listening to the Beatles’ album Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Leary said, “The Beatles have taken my place. That latest album—a complete celebration of LSD.” (See Jay Stevens, Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream, , pg. 345).
Millions subsequently discovered that they could get as “high” or even “higher” through various techniques of Eastern mysticism (TM and other forms of yoga, visualization and hypnosis). Thus was born something called The New Age Movement. Hindu and Buddhist occultism penetrated every area of Western society, from psychology and medicine to education and business. Numerous yogis and gurus, such as Vivekananda, Yogananda, Maharaj Ji, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Baba Muktananda, and others quickly realized that drugs had opened the Western mind to their message, and they invaded our shores.
Even young children are being caught in the drug web. If Johnny misbehaves, mother increases his Ritalin dose; and to keep herself on an even keel, she takes Prozac. A large percentage of Americans no longer know how to stand up to adversity and thereby develop strength of character. Instead of facing their problems and working through to a solution, they insist upon a wonder drug to assist them with every difficulty.
There are approximately 171 BILLION cells in an adult human brain, and we don't fully understand how they all function. Moreover, the mysterious link between the human soul (which was made in God’s image) and the brain and body is forever beyond the grasp of science. Yet that connection is being tampered with by drugs in order to adjust the behavior of people. How could there be a chemical solution? Yet millions take drugs such as Fluoxetine, Citalopram, Sertraline, Paroxetine, Escitalopram, etc. to adjust mood and behavior long term for non-severe problems.
In the Apocalypse 22:15, we read, "Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying." According to theologian Haydock, "the dogs" refer to unbelievers (See The New Testament of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with a Comprehensive Catholic Commentary, reprint from 1859, pg. 1656), and "sorcerers" comes from the Greek word pharmakeia from which we get the word "pharmacy." The word does not only mean the sorcery that comes from idolatry, but can also refer to the use or administration of drugs. We see that pagans often used drugs to call on their "gods" (demons), so it's not surprising that Holy Scripture seems to link the two.
Aldous Huxley (d. 1963), the famous author of Brave New World, and philosopher, was known to experiment with LSD and mescaline. He was deeply involved in the occult. On his deathbed, he asked his wife to shoot him up with LSD so he could "trip" into the afterlife. She complied, and I cannot imagine what horrors he found that never end, unless he somehow repented by a miracle of grace. In a speech he delivered to a California medical school, two years before his death, he made the following chilling prediction:
There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution. (See academyofideas.com/2018/06/aldous-huxley-brave-new-world-dark-side-of-pleasure; Emphasis mine).
1. St. Paul writes, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). The reason St. Paul gives for this instruction, is that alcohol (a substance like narcotics) leads to indulging passions without restraint, a.k.a. debauchery. He contrasts drunkenness with being filled with the Holy Ghost. The principle behind the passage is simply this: Stay away from alcohol and other drugs that will confuse your thoughts, weaken your inhibitions and make you more vulnerable to sin. Can anyone think of a drug that doesn’t do all those things? Whether depressant or stimulant, psychedelic or dissociative, legal or illegal, substances that affect the mind are given a negative appraisal by God: “In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things” (Proverbs 23:32-33). Although taking alcohol in moderation (and prescription drugs) is fine, why use them unless necessary? Why invite something that can lead to serious sin into your life?
2. Long-term use of mind-altering drugs can cause the actual things they are prescribed to prevent; e.g., suicidal ideations, and even homicidal rage.
3. Self-control is one of the primary virtues of the Christian life. Traditionalists are instructed to be in control of their decision-making processes and not enslaved to anything that erodes their ability to act in ways that are honoring to God. A clear mind — which is impossible under the influence of drugs — is crucial to self-control, which in turn affects our ability to grow in the spiritual life.
Only God, and not drugs, can be trusted to get us through life's hardships. Yes, for serious mental defects and short-term use, prescription drugs are a blessing. However, abusing drugs proscribed, or using "recreational marijuana," or taking illicit drugs puts a person on a physical, mental, and spiritual crash course. There are all kinds of reasons people turn to drugs, but it all boils down to the escape from pain in our life. Pains that come from abuse, job problems, marital problems, etc., are all too real and very hurtful.
Nevertheless, ponder this question: How do drugs really help? They may alter your perception of reality for a while, but they do nothing to change it. In fact, they only give you more problems in the end. Addiction. Isolation. Financial burden. More hurt piled on top of what was there before. Stay close to the Sacraments. Pray, and offer up your pain to God as a sacrifice for your sins in order to save your soul and the souls of others. Turn to Christ and His Mother--and don't be a dope.