August 1, 1997 Issue
by Ryan Connor

On the cover of the May 5, 1997, issue of Time Magazine is the headline: "HOW WE GET ADDICTED.…and how we might get cured." This article results from a confession made by one of the Big Five cigarette makers in the United States. Just last March, the Ligget group admitted "not only that tobacco is addictive, but also that the company has known it all along." In this seven page article we are told that scientists are discovering the chemical secret to addiction, as well as the answers to some important questions: Why do some people become addicted to alcohol, cocaine, nicotine and other addictive substances, while others do not? Why do some people become alcoholics and junkies, yet on the other hand, some may experiment with drugs and alcohol and never get hooked? Time reports that today’s scientists have the answer: "What ties all these mood-altering drugs together, they say, is a remarkable ability to elevate levels of a common substance in the brain called dopamine." This brain chemical called dopamine is associated by these scientists with feelings of pleasure and elation. They say that "Dopamine can be elevated by a hug, a kiss, a word of praise or a winning poker hand - as well as by the potent pleasures that come from drugs" (p. &9).

While this article is mildly interesting I neither have the time nor the desire to delve into all the details of this new scientific discovery. It is really not new to anyone that drugs alter the chemicals in the brain. What is striking about this article is that now scientists are beginning to understand how addiction works, and that drugs and alcohol truly are addictive substances.

I am neither a doctor nor a scientist. Therefore, the validity (or lack thereof) of what these doctors and scientists are saying is not for me to decide. It may all be very true. What I do find reprehensible in this article are the wanton conclusions of these scientists.

Dr. Nora Volkow of the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York says, "Addictions aare a disorder of the brain no different from other forms of mental illness." J. Madeleine Nash, Time Magazine reporter agrees, stating, "Americans tend to think of drug addiction as a failure of character. But this stereotype is beginning to give way to the recognition that drug dependence has a clear biological basis." She admits, "Such speculation is controversial, for it suggests that broad swaths of the population may be genetically predisposed to drug abuse" (p. 70).

Listen to what these people are saying! The idea that a person is "predisposed" is as close to saying that a person is determined to become a drug or alcohol abuser from the time he or she is conceived in the womb as anyone can get. (You see, it’s not your fault that you became an alcoholic or a junkie - you were just made that way) This reporter goes on to say, "Genes and social forces may conspire to turn people into addicts but do not doom them to remain so" (p. 71). As one reads through this article he sees that people today are set on finding a way to shift the blame. (It’s not your fault - don’t worry about it - you’re just a weak human being that never had a chance against today’s social pressures with your bad addiction-prone genes)

I am not denying that a person’s genes and chemical make-up influence how he turns out. I am denying, however, the absurd notion that you and I are unable to do anything about that outcome. We do not have to become drug addicts. We do not have to become alcoholics. It may be that we are tempted by these things. We may even be more or less prone to become addicted to these things, but we can nevertheless abstain from drugs and alcohol. And we must.

We must be like the Apostle Paul, who said, "I will not be brought under the power of any" (I Cor 6:12). The NIV renders it, "I will not be mastered by anything." We must make the whole-hearted decision to stay clear from all and any form of drugs and alcohol We can refuse to surrender and not be "mastered by anything."

The Apostle Paul states, furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (NKJV). While pseudo-science may seek desperately for excuses, God’s Word declares that Christians are able to bear all that may overtake them. Right in the middle of this verse of Scripture Paul says, "You are able." Why are we able? We are able because of the "mercies of God" (Rom 12:1), the "riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering" (Rom 2:4). There can be no doubt that God is at work for His people today (cf. Jas. 1:2-5; I Pet 1:5, 6). The reason that Christians are "able" is that we have a faithful God, "who will not allow" us to be tempted beyond what we are able. God just won’t allow it!

Does this mean that we live above sin, incapable of being tempted to sin? Of course not. We can and will be tempted. The tempter came to Jesus (Mt 4:3), and he will come for us (I Pet 5:8). Paul teaches in I Corinthians 10:13 that when we are tempted we have the free-will choice either to follow our own desires to the conception of sin and the death it brings (Jas 1:14, 15) or to countermand our desires and discover the way to escape. In order to find the way of escape we must search the Scriptures (I Cor 10:10, 11) in the light of our circumstances and apply what we find in the Scriptures to the situation at hand. The Scriptures teach that whenever we sin, no matter how small we may consider the sin to be, we have freely chosen to commit it, for we could have just as freely chosen to overcome the temptation. The way is often "narrow and difficult" Nonetheless, we are able.

The bottom line is that the Lord has established the order of things under the New Covenant in such a way that those who serve Him ARE ABLE TO OVERCOME. Jesus was asked by His disciples, who then can be saved? He looked at them and said, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Mt 19:25, 25). The Revelation expresses eight times that the blessings and promises are for "him that overcomes" (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12,21; 21:7). Heaven awaits those who overcome. Therefore, we must get our minds set on the goal. We must, as Paul said, "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph 6:11, 12). There is a baffle going on for our souls. Will we overcome? Or will we despise the riches of God's goodness? The choice is ours.

Other OPA Article Links:

Alcohol & Drugs
Christian Living

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