By: Rachel Petri
Methamphetamines are a highly addictive stimulant drug being used more and more in today’s society. Also called speed, ice, or meth, this drug is estimated to have been used by more than 1.5 million American adults in the last year. Methamphetamine can be taken in numerous different ways, from swallowing pills or snorting powder to smoking or injecting. Methamphetamines are commonly viewed as dangerous though, recently, states such as Oregon, have legalized meth use.
Methamphetamine affects the central nervous system – the brain and the spine – which control our perception of the outside world and our physical movement. Meth is related to a class of drugs called amphetamines with a similar chemical make-up, which are used to treat ADHD and other attention disorders. The drug usually causes quick highs and fades equally quickly. Methamphetamine use is very dangerous; the physical and neurological impacts can be severe, and meth use is also related to numerous other risky behaviors.
Due to these risks, secular experts agree that methamphetamine use poses a severe problem for more than fourteen million American adults throughout their lives. Most secular sources consider methamphetamine and other drug addictions to be a psychological disorder. The changes in the brain due to the dopamine levels reinforce addiction behavior, and secular psychologists and healthcare professionals would say that these neurological changes are evidence of substance abuse disorder. Meth use is also correlated with other substance use disorders – abusing other drugs – and severe mental health issues. The graph below, from the CDC’s website, shows the concordance rate of other issues among American adults who report past-year methamphetamine use. Many health experts cite the lack of a drug to treat this addiction as a major barrier to helping the addicted.
What’s the problem? – Secular View
Secular sources acknowledge that methamphetamine is used as an “escape drug.” Its relationship with dopamine levels means that meth provides a profound sense of pleasure and relief among sometimes devastating life circumstances. The difficult and unique challenges of the past year (2020) have led to a horrifying increase in reliance on drugs for escape; New York alone saw a 214% increase in meth seizures during 2020.
What’s the problem? – Biblical View
The world typically sees this as a result of an inherent disadvantage or disorder among the population, but as usual, the Bible has a completely different way of defining the problem. While secular sources use terms like “pleasure” and “reward”, scripture is not silent on the topic. “Joy” is littered throughout the pages of God’s Word, and in no way does the Bible condone seeking joy and fulfillment through drug use.
In the beginning of the book of James, God tells us to “count it all joy when [we] fall into various trials.” While many methamphetamine users may struggle and turn to drugs in the midst of hard situations, the Bible encourages us to trust in our Maker’s purpose and turn to Him for peace and relief.
Romans 15:13 reads, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Joy comes from God; as His children, there is no other way to find relief and peace in the midst of trials. Turning to anything else is sin and often idolatry. Turning to God is surrender and salvation. 1 Corinthians 10:13-14 emphasizes that with every temptation, we must run to Christ and flee from idolatry.
Consequences of Addiction
The results of relying on methamphetamine for escape or pleasure are severe. Methamphetamines increase dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in motivation and rewards or pleasure. The increased dopamine in the brain causes intense pleasure, reinforcing the drug taking behavior. In the short term, methamphetamines increase heart and breathing rates, and blood pressure. Taking meth through injections increases risks of HIV and hepatitis, and decreases inhibition (essentially self control), which leads to other risk-taking behaviors.
Extended methamphetamine use has consequences ranging from hallucinations and paranoia to memory loss, dental problems, and violent behavior. Meth also changes the structure of the brain over time, impairing reward and motivation systems, verbal learning and memory, coordination, and emotion. Nearly all of those functions are related to motivation and pleasure or physical movement, emphasizing the effect that increased dopamine has on the central nervous system.
What’s the answer?
The world has yet to find a satisfactory treatment for substance use disorders, including methamphetamines. Some organizations merely try to reduce the risks associated with drug use, by providing clean and safe injection needles and other supplies to reduce the risk of disease transmission. While seemingly helpful, this practice only makes it easier for people to turn to false sources of joy.
Others cite the lack of a medicinal treatment for substance use as a major barrier in its eradication. After conceptualizing substance use disorder as a psychological and even physical issue, many secular experts simply want an alternative drug to “cure” the problem. One of the methods that has actually been recognized to have some success is Cognitive-Behavioral therapy. This therapy style is actually remarkably similar to the Biblical process of taking your thoughts captive.
Without the Holy Spirit working in a person’s heart and mind, risk management, medicine, and even therapy will never truly address the root of the problem. Again, the Bible has a different answer. The only cure for idolatry is repentance. The Biblical answer to seeking false joy is to repent, to identity and replace false thoughts, and to seek after our Creator. Practically, this may have different components, such as journaling thoughts, spending time in God’s word, and identifying sources of discontentment or hardship. Drug abuse is frequently an all consuming sin; the only hope is to repent and radically pursue God.
In Matthew 13:44, Jesus tells this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” [Emphasis added]. The pleasure brought on from methamphetamine use is false, brief, and comes with devastating consequences. True, lasting joy only comes from pursuing Christ and living in a relationship with him. The man in the parable saw the kingdom of heaven, the truth and hope of the gospel, and gave up everything he had to chase after it. Only in the headlong pursuit of our Creator can we ever find real joy.
- James 1:2
- Romans 15:13
- 1 Corinthians 10:13-14
- Matthew 13:44
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