This article is by Josh Schubert, a Substance Abuse Counselor for Fairfax County Youth and Family Services. He is a graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He recently addressed the Youth Apostles Full Members in July on Drugs and Addiction as part of our monthly formation.
John 10:10 “I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.”
The problem with drugs is not that they feel good, it is the opposite. The more you use drugs the more you feel less pleasure to the point that only intoxication feels good or normal. Feeling less pleasure, leads to craving what will give you the most pleasure, the intoxication. As the addiction progresses the individual’s value system changes and the focus of life becomes the intoxication. The individual becomes not addicted to any one type of drug, but to the intoxication. Almost all drugs of addiction look the same in the brain’s pleasure response, the part that becomes addicted.
God intended for us to have each emotion for a reason, pleasure is no different. Pleasure is supposed to move us to do more of something, like eat yummy apples. The problem with drugs is that they are so pleasurable that the brain becomes overstimulated. The brain then adapts to overstimulation (Tolerance) and the result is a brain that is numb to pleasure. Like all sin, such as gluttony, it is a distortion of the good and natural. Thomas Aquinas said of gluttony: “Gluttony denotes not any desire of eating and drinking, but an inordinate (excessive) desire.”
It is more likely today that a teenager will smoke marijuana, than drink alcohol or smoke a cigarette. Marijuana is the most widely abused drug by teens and a common rebuttal from teens about smoking and legalizing marijuana is that alcohol is legal, more dangerous, and just as intoxicating. As the culture begins to legalize marijuana (19 states and counting) the Church will need to come up with a definitive answer about the differences of alcohol vs. marijuana and other drugs.
I believe it boils down to intention. Matthew 15:11 “It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.” People can morally drink alcohol for social enjoyment and health benefits (Yes, there are health benefits). If the intention of drinking alcohol is intoxication then the action becomes immoral; in addition, while intoxicated they lose ability to reason and harm their body’s health. The only reason people use marijuana, beside legitimate medical use, is to become intoxicated. Addiction can become immoral when the values change, placing intoxication before God, health, and others.
G.K. Chesterton from his book Orthodoxy: “We should thank God for beer and Burgundy by not drinking too much of them.”
- YouCat: 352, 1st Commandment
- YouCat: 389, Drugs are a sin due to the self-destructive nature…
- CCC: 1731-1738, Freedom and Responsibility
- CCC: 2288-2291, Respect for health