Shocking Alcohol Abuse

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Christopher Ingraham, in The Washington Post, August 13, 2017 provided the following information about alcohol abuse in the United States.
–A new study published in JAMA Psychiatry this month finds that the rate of alcohol use disorder (alcoholism) rose by a shocking 49 percent in the first decade of the 2000’s.
–1 in 8 Americans, 12.7 percent of the U. S. population, now meets diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder.
–The authors of the study characterize the findings as a serious and overlooked public health problem.  Health issues involved in alcohol abuse are:  fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, liver cirrhosis, several types of cancer and infections, pancreatitis, type 2 diabetes and various injuries.  In another study, The American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research fund have announced the analysis of 119 previous studies involving 12 million women and 260,000 cases of breast cancer.  The study shows that even one small glass of wine or an eight-ounce beer a day causes a 5% greater risk of breast cancer for premenopausal women and a 9% increase for postmenopausal women.  Alcohol triggers DNA mutations and raises estrogen levels which are linked to increased risk for breast cancer.  (Does God Exist?, Third Quarter, 2017, p. 26).
–The CDC (Center For Disease Control) estimates that 88,000 people a year die from alcohol-related causes.  This is more than double the annual death rate of opiate overdoses (100 people a day die from opiate/heroin overdoes in the U. S.).  241 people a day are dying due to alcohol abuse!  Where are the headlines exposing this crisis?
–Nearly 1 in 4 adults under the age of 30 (23.4 percent) met the diagnostic criteria for alcoholism.
A diagnosis of alcohol dependency occurs when any three of the following seven symptoms are present:
1.  Need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect.
2.  Characteristic withdrawal symptoms (shakes for instance) or drinking to relieve these types of symptoms.
3.  Drinking larger amounts; or, over a longer period of time.
4.  Persistent desire or one or more unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control drinking (out-of-control drinking).
5.  Spending a great deal of time in activities necessary to obtain, to use, or to recover from the effects of drinking.
6.  Continued drinking despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to be caused or exacerbated by drinking.
7.  Important social, occupational, or recreational activities given up or reduced because of drinking.
God’s Word Condemns Drinking Alcohol
Consider the following passages that condemn the use of alcohol.  Proverbs 20:1, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”  Prov. 23:29, “Who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions? Who hath babbling?  Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes?  They that tarry long at the wine, they that go to seek mixed wine?  Eph. 5:18, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.”  “Be not drunk” is an inceptive verb that refers to the entire process of inebriation, from the first drink onward.  There is an alternative to consuming alcohol and that is to be filled with the Spirit.  Rom. 8:13-14, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”  Gal. 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
The sin of drinking alcoholic beverages in our culture and in our churches has become widespread.  The indulgence of the lusts of the flesh are detrimental to the cultivation of godly character.  The use of alcohol lessons our ability to practice self-control.  The result is that alcohol use becomes an avenue for the commission of more sins (fornication, adultery, domestic abuse, violence, death and injury due to drunk driving, murder, and such like).
Paul set forth a clear pathway to God that involves mortifying the lusts of the flesh and pursuing life in the Spirit.  Those who are led by the Spirit are the sons of God.

Is Drug Abuse A Moral Issue?

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The Columbus Dispatch began a new series several weeks ago called Guide to Life.  This series is available online at www.dispatch.com.  In an article for the series, Allison Ward wrote about how to keep kids off of drugs.  The article was informative.  However, a quotation appeared in it from Dr. Steven Matson, a physician at Children’s Hospital.  Dr. Matson said, “Parents need to remember that it is a treatable disease–and No. 1, that it is a disease.”  “It’s not a mental or moral failure.”  He was speaking about drug abuse.
Is drug abuse a moral issue?  Please consider the following facts.
First, 36% of 12th graders smoked marijuana according to the NIDA (National Institute of Drug Abuse).  Marijuana is an illegal drug.  Breaking the law is a moral issue.Second, 15% used prescription drugs illegally.  Again, breaking the law is a moral issue.
Third, more than 25% had gotten drunk (alcohol is a drug) within the past month.  Drunkenness is a sin (Gal. 5:19-21).  This is a moral issue.
Fourth, 5,000 people younger than 21 die each year of injuries related to underage drinking (underage means it was illegal for them to drink).  This is a moral issue and a social issue.  Under the influence of drugs (alcohol included), individuals lose their power of restraint and control.  Temperance is a virtue (II Peter 1:6).  Is intemperance a virtue too?  This is a moral issue.
Fifth, the age of trial for use is now as early as 10 or 11.  Our young people are struggling with drug abuse and its consequences at an earlier and earlier age.  An eleven- year-old is not equipped to handle the harm to self, to society and to the spiritual aspects of his/her life.  The age of innocency is corrupted by drug abuse.  This is a moral issue.
Sixth, yielding to the lusts of the flesh is a moral issue.  “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:5-6).  The works of the flesh are named by Paul in Gal. 5:19-21.  Paul stated, “…they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
For all of the reasons given above, we must affirm that drug abuse is a moral issue.  All of the statistics given above are from the article by Allison Ward!
A strong faith in moral integrity is a deterrent to drug abuse.  The teaching of God’s Word noted above helps to inform and train the conscience against sinful conduct.  Young people need exposure to the truth in order to internalize its principles by faith and love for God.  Love for God is a deterrent to drug abuse.  Love for God manifests itself in a desire to please God and live for Him.  Self-denial is an important aspect of self-control.  Self-control is a virtue.  Godly character is a deterrent to drug abuse.  To say that drug abuse is not a moral issue is to destroy many of the effective, internal, aspects of deterrence.

Marijuana and the Bible

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What is happening in America?  At least 20 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical purposes (these are restricted).  Two states (Washington and Colorado) have legalized marijuana for recreational use.  Other states are watching this experiment and will have to decide if they will legalize this drug or not.
The President of the United States minimized the use of marijuana comparing it to alcohol and cigarettes.  He said, “As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life.  I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol” (Huffington Post, 1/19/2014).  Please refer to the article that I wrote on this blog site titled, “Alcohol and Marijuana” to see the dangers of alcohol and that 88,000 Americans lose their lives each year to heavy drinking of alcohol.
What is Marijuana?
Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa, which contains the psychoactive (mind-altering) chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as well as other related compounds. This plant material can be smoked or concentrated into a resin called hashish or a sticky black liquid called hash oil (National Institutes of Health).
Facts About Marijuana
1.  Marijuana is the most common illicit drug used in the United States.
2.  The drug is being used more among young people (since 2007) and at the same time viewed as being less harmful.
3.  Marijuana is usually smoked (rolled in cigarette wrappers) called “joints” or in pipes called “bongs.”
4.  Marijuana smoke has a pungent and distinctive usually sweet-and-sour odor.
5.  Marijuana can be mixed with tea or used in food products.
General Effects of Marijuana
1.  Short-term memory loss.  Slowness of learning.
2.  Impaired lung function (similar to that found in cigarettes).
3.  Extended use–causes cancer and other lung disease.
4.  Causes decreased sperm count and sperm mobility.
5.  Impairs immune response.
6.  Adverse effects on heart function.  Increase of heart rate–20-100 percent after smoking.
7.  Developmental effects in children and adolescents:  amotivational syndrome–energy loss, poor school performance leading to dropouts, harmed parental relationships, behavior disruptions and psychotic episodes.
Effects on the Brain
1.  THC acts on specific molecular targets on brain cells called cannabinoid receptors.  These in turn affect other neural receptors and play an important part in brain development and function.  Marijuana affects every part of the brain.
2.  THC affects the parts of the brain responsible for pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement.
3.  THC produces altered perceptions and mood, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and disrupted learning and memory.
4.  THC also affects brain development.  Prolonged use can have permanent results.  A long-term study in New Zealand showed that heavy users lost an average of 8 points in IQ between the ages of 13 and 38.  (National Institute on Drug Abuse).
Is Marijuana Addictive?
Contrary to public myth, marijuana is addictive.  It can also lead to the use of more potent drugs like cocaine or heroin.  It is referred to as a “gateway” drug for this reason.
Is Marijuana Medicine?
Clinical evidence has not shown that the therapeutic benefits of the marijuana plant outweigh its health risks (NIDA).  There are many harmful ingredients in marijuana that have not been fully evaluated at this time.
Marijuana and the Bible
The Bible teaches that the body of a Christian belongs to God by virtue of redemption through Jesus Christ (I Cor. 6:19-20).  The body must be used for the glory of God and not for drug abuse or fornication.
Christians are not to pursue the lusts of the flesh, but rather the spiritual things of God.  Rom. 8:5-10; Col. 3:1-5.
Christians must not be brought under the power of any illicit drug that impairs judgment and compromises personal restraint against sin.  When a person is “high” there is a loss of self-control (temperance) II Pet. 1:6.
Marijuana is a means of seeking  pleasure through a mind-altering drug.  The pleasures of sin must be rejected.  Heb. 11:24-25 (The example of Moses).
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:1-2).

Alcohol and Marijuana

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In an interview with the New Yorker’s David Remnick, President Obama said, “As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a y0ung person up through a big chunk of my adult life.  I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol” (Molly Reilly, www.huffingtonpost.com, 1/19/2014 updated: 1/25/2014).
Perhaps we should ask, “how dangerous is alcohol?”  There are approximately 88,000 deaths attributable to excessive alcohol use each year in the U.S.  This makes excessive alcohol use the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death for the nation.  Excessive alcohol use is responsible for 2.5 million years of potential life lost annually, or an average of about 30 years of potential life lost for each death.  In 2006, there were more than 1.2 million emergency room visits and 2.7 million physician office visits due to excessive drinking.  The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2006 were estimated at $223.5 billion.  (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention–Fact Sheet Alcohol Use and Health).
The standard measure for a drink is 0.6 ounces (1.2 tablespoons) of pure alcohol.  Generally, this amount of alcohol is found in:  12-ounces of regular beer or wine cooler; 8-ounces of malt-liquor; 5-ounces of wine; or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (gin, rum, vodka, whiskey) (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).  Binge drinking is defined for women as 4 or more drinks during a single occasion.  For men, 5 or more drinks during a single occasion.  Heavy drinking for women is more than 1 drink per day on average and for men it is more than 2 drinks per day on average!  A small amount of alcohol becomes very dangerous very quickly.
Here is a list of the immediate health risks of excessive alcohol use:  unintential injuries, including traffic injuries, falls, drownings, burns, and unintential firearm injuries;  violence including intimate partner violence and child maltreatment.  About 35% of victims report that offenders are under the influence of alcohol.  Alcohol use is also associated with 2 out of 3 incidents of intimate partner violence.  Alcohol is the leading factor in child maltreatment and neglect cases, and is the most frequent substance abused among these parents;  risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners, and increased risk of sexual assault.  These behaviors can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases;  miscarriage and still birth among pregnant women, and a combination of physical and mental birth defects among children that last throughout life;  and alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels that suppress the central nervous system and can cause loss of consciousness, low blood pressure and body temperature, coma, respiratory depression, or death.
Some of the long-term health risks of excessive alcohol use are:  neurological problems, including dementia, stroke and neuropathy;  cardiovascular problems, including myocardial infarction, cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation and hypertension;  psychiatric problems including depression, anxiety, and suicide;  social problems including unemployment, lost productivity, and family problems and  cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast.  In general, the risk of cancer increases with increasing amounts of alcohol.  Liver diseases including, alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis, which is among the 15 leading causes of all deaths in the United States, and among persons with Hepatitis C virus, worsening of liver function and interference with medications used to treat this condition. Excessive alcohol use also causes gastrointestinal problems, including pancreatitis and gastritis (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).  I gave this list because I wanted you to read what the President of the United States left out of his statement that marijuana is not any more dangerous than alcohol.  Do you see how dangerous alcohol is?  Do we need another drug that destroys the brain and other vital organs of the body?  Do we need another drug that will rob of life, peace and happiness?  By our choices we reflect a penchant for the indulgence of the flesh at the expense of our own well-being and that of others.  Such self-indulgence leads to self-destruction!  Be not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is!  The President of the United States was minimizing a grave danger.  Don’t be fooled.

How To Cope With Drug Addiction

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Drug addiction is a difficult problem.  Denial of this problem only makes the problem worse.  What can be done to help in these difficult situations?
1.  Awareness of the problem.  In the parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus relates that the prodigal “came to himself.”  Luke 15:17.  The younger son in the parable came to the realization that he had a problem.  In a previous blog, we examined twenty signs of addiction.  The signs are given to help a person analyze the situation and draw the right conclusion as to whether or not a drug abuse problem exists.  Some professionals (mentioned below can administer tests that diagnose drug addiction).
2.  Breaking through self-denial.  One of the most serious problems confronting an addict is admitting to an addiction.  The addiction to a drug actually interferes with admission to a problem.  Judgment is imparied due to inebriation.  It is difficult to communicate with a person when they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs and it is not recommended to attempt to elicite agreements for changes in behavior while under the influence of a drug.  When a person is sober they think better and are in a position to make good decisions.  Often the first step is detoxification and then professional treatment.  Personal responsibility and accountability are essential to overcoming a drug addiction.
3.  Don’t become an enabler.  Often those who are closely associated with the addict are co-dependent.  Co-dependency means that there is an exchange of needs between the addict and the enabler.  An enabler may lie for an addict to cover up his/her mistakes, missed work, or other failures.  An enabler may pay bills that are encurred due to the addiction.  The enabler may do this to lessen the experience of pain the addict is causing or avoid embarrassment or to continue to recieve some emotional or physical benefit.  When we enable an addict we suspend the law of reaping and sowing (Gal. 6:7-“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”).  The addict will continue to drain the resources of the enabler until there is a crisis.  The crisis is inevitable unless the addict takes action to resolve the addiction.
4.  Seek professional help.  Some professionals that can help are:  doctors, drug counselors, ministers, hospital drug treatment programs and AA (Alcoholilc Anonymous) programs.
5.  Strengthen your own relationship with God.  Most who overcome addictive behaviors credit God with helping them.  Often, when addiction occurs,estrangement from God occurs too.  James states, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you…” (James 4:8).    God’s Word gives us wisdom to guide us along the pathway of righteousness.  We will need His wisdom to make correct decisions that will help us overcome the problem of addiction.  Those who are not Christians should consider surrendering their lives to God (Rom. 12:1-2).  Real change in God’s direction involves repentance from sin and forgiveness from God (Acts 2:38).
6.  Character Counts.  If you’re attempting to help an addict, you will need patience, perseverance, love, determination, self-control, strength, kindness, truth and many other qualities.  Your character will be tested.  Make sure that you define the type of help you are willing to give.  Don’t be afraid to set boundaries.
The coping strategies set forth here are not exhaustive, but they will help you make a start in the right direction.  As you seek more information about the subject of addiction and professional help, you will define a pathway that will focus on a solution.  There is no guarantee that the addict will walk this pathway.  You cannot force him/her to do what is right.  Ultimately, the addict must make the decision to seek help and pursue the means of  hope and healing.

Drug Addiction

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In 2011, there were 1.765 deaths due to drug overdoses in Ohio.  An Ohioan died every five hours from a drug overdose in the same year.  From 1997 to 2010, the average number of painkillers such as Oxycontin prescribed per Ohioan jumped from seven to sixty-seven.  Heroin involved deaths are continuing to rise from 16 percent (233) in 2008 to a high of 24.1 percent (426) of all drug overdose fatalities in 2011.  Since 1999, drug overdose deaths have leaped by 440 percent in Ohio.  For the fourth straight year, unintentional drug overdoses continue to be the leading cause of injury-related death in the Buckeye State, topping traffic crashes, suicides, and falls. (All statistics from the Columbus Dispatch, April 27, 2013, A1 A8; “Ohioans overdosing on painkillers, heroin” by Alan Johnson).
In view of the rising number of drug users and addicts and the rise in deaths due to drug abuse, each person should become knowledgeable of the signs of drug abuse.  In an article entitled, 20 Secret Signs of Addiction, Melanie Haiken gives a list of things to look for if you suspect drug abuse. (Yahoo Health, Mar. 14, 2011).
1.  Quantity Control.  Over time, a higher tolerance to alcohol or drugs leads people with addiction problems to increase the quantity and frequency of their substance of choice without showing signs of loss of control.
2.  Hide and Seek Around the House.  Pills or bottles of alcohol may turn up in unexpected places.  Pills are generally kept in a medicine cabinet.  But, what if you find a bottle of pills in the cookie jar?
3.  The disappearing act.  Missing jewelry?  Money? Cameras?  Selling items to raise money for drugs is common among abusers.
4.  A Head Start.  Drinking before going out with friends to drink.  Then, you attempt to give the appearance of drinking the same amount as friends.
5.  Tricks and Manipulation.  Hiding an addiction leads to constant subterfuge.  The addict becomes adept at lying.  Are you having trouble believing your spouse when he/she tells you where they have been and what they have been doing?
6.  The Money Magnet.  Drugs are expensive.  Bar tabs are too!  Are you having financial problems?  Problems paying the rent? Utilities?
7.  The Clear Choice.  Vodka is the drink of choice by alcoholics because it is clear and looks like water.  Vodka can also be mixed with other drinks (iced tea for example) and be disguised.
8.  Missing in Action.  Repeated failure to show up at a birthday party, graduation, or some other important family event is a sign of addiction. An addict becomes unreliable and secretive.
9.  A Narrower World.  As addiction takes hold, it tends to block out other interests and activities that were important.  Lost interest in hobbies or sporting events and even church attendance and functions.
10.  Magic Bottles.  A bottle that never seems to get empty may be a sign of addiction.  Addicts hide bottles of alcohol in strange places (in the water tank in the back of the commode).
11.  Can I Try The Diet You’re On?  Crystal meth, cocaine and other “uppers” stimulate energy to the point that people feel they can go without eating.  A side effect of this is weight loss.  Do you know someone who is losing weight but is not on a diet?
12.  Squeaky Clean.  Constant use of gum or breath mints to cover up the smell of alcohol is a sign of addiction.
13.  The Bathroom game.  Prescription drugs are commonly found in the bathroom medicine cabinet.  When visiting the home of others, addicts will raid the medicine cabinet and take pills.
14.  Mood Management.  Many family members describe the emotional experience of living with an alcoholic or addict as a roller coaster ride.  Unstable moods, and unpredictable emotions are exhibited by addicts.
15.  Sleeping Sickness?  Alcohol and many types of drugs are sedatives or “downers.” They make you sleep and sleep heavily.   Have trouble holding down a job?  Are you sleeping in the day time and at night?
16.  Pain That Never Ends.  Back pain is one of the most common excuses for requests for more and more pain medication.  Do you know someone who is regularly changing doctors in order to get different types of narcotics?
17.  Sickness Without a Cause.  Addicts are often ill.  They have chronic physical problems.  They have low energy, fatigue, and depression.
18.  Paranoia and Panic Attacks.  Attacks of paranoia are often associated with addiction.  Addicts can develop social anxieties, fear of public places, and avoidance of public gatherings.  Isolation results.
19.  Storyteller.  Addicts become adept at telling stories to others to gain sympathy.  They lie to family members, bosses, doctors, the police and even the minister.  Some of these stories are difficult to verify.
20.  The Blame Game.  Denial produces blame.  The addict blames others for his/her problems.  Guilt-tripping is a common tactic.  The addict attempts to shift responsibility away from himself to others for all of the problems encountered.  The home often becomes a war-zone.  Hostility and violence are common.  Peace is gone.  How many times have the police been called to your home?
In the next blog, we will look at what you can do if a person you love is abusing drugs.