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Drug addiction and idolatry

2010 March 20
by Tim V-B

Over at the Telegraph a few weeks ago was an interesting article about the use of Cocaine: “Is taking cocaine socially acceptable now?”  Andrew M Brown, the author (“a writer who specialises in mental health and in the influence of addiction and substance abuse on culture”) writes about the growing use of cocaine – apparently use has increased five-fold among 16 to 59-year-olds in the past 12 years, although the purity of cocaine on the street has decreased.

Andrew shows that cocaine has lost its aura of danger, and points to a suppressed World Health Organisation study that suggests cocaine use is not as harmful as portrayed on anti-drugs adverts.

I’m not that interested in the medical science, and I’m not suggesting you go out and take some!  Of more interest is Andrew Brown’s description of the problem that underlies drug use (emphasis mine):

My own view is that “harmful use” – whether of cocaine, alcohol, over-eating, or any other self-destructive behaviour – is a symptom of an underlying malaise. This is when a desperate person starts worshipping a substance, or turning it into the primary relationship and the primary source of pleasure. Then what happens is that the substance or the behaviour starts possessing the person. Much better, I feel, that humans should gain this kind of satisfaction from other living people, from meaningful work, and from families especially. So rather than focusing on symptoms, politicians might better spend their time thinking why, under their management, the structures that used to hold society together and support people to have healthy and fulfilled lives seem to have crumbled.

I have no idea about Andrew’s religious beliefs, or lack of.  But it is fascinating how the language of worship is used.  The substance has become an idol, a functional saviour, offering satisfaction but leading to slavery.  Andrew would rather we look to work, family and relationships as better idols, but that’s no solution.  None of these are inherently reliable and none can give true meaning.  Only Jesus can satisfy.  Worshipping him is true liberation.  Which is why the best solution to the drugs problem is not education or wealth, but the good news of Jesus Christ.

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