Religious attitudes to drug abuse

An overview of Unit 3 of Religion and Morality

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  • Created by: Kate
  • Created on: 15-05-12 08:11


Drug: a substance that when taken affects the body or mind

Prescription drugs: drugs legally obtained with a doctor's consent

Drug abuse: taking drugs in a way which harms the user

Illegal drugs: drugs which are illegal to posess, sell or use, categorised according to potential harm and addictfulness. None of the 6 major religions permit the taking of illegal drugs

  • Jews, Christians and Muslims say no because of the damage to the body and mind created by God - Christians compare the body to a temple
  • Buddhism is against illegal drugs as they can harm the mind
  • Most of Hindusm and Sikhism is strictly against drug taking, but some Hindu holy men and warrior Sikhs take a mild form of cannabis

Social drugs: legal drugs which are still addictive (e.g. alcohol, nicotine)

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Rights, responsibilities

Everybody in Britain has the right to medical care and to have drugs prescribed for appropriate illnesses

We also have a responsibility to ensure that the drugs don't get into the wrong hands - there is a large market for illegal prescription drugs

Some people say that they have the right to take whatever drug they like as long as they can afford to but don't consider their responsiblites to others when under the influence and also the public money used to rehabilitate them

Those who sell the drugs don't consider the resulting deaths etc. part of their responsibity and also the public money spent on prisons

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Legal status / classification of illegal drugs

  • Social drugs are legal, but age restricted
  • Prescribed drugs are legal, but only if prescribed
  • Over-the-counter drugs are legal, but there can be restrictions on quantity bought of painkillers
  • Solvents are not controlled but retailers may not sell to some people who they think will abuse them and some solvents are age restricted
  • Illegal drugs are illegally manufactured and sold
  • Caffeine is not cotrolled in any way and is often given to small children in chocolate and soft drinks, even though it can have negative effects

Drug classification: 3 legal categories (a/b/c) in which illegal drugs are classified in British law according to addiciveness and harm.

This allows the government to give greater sentences to those selling class A than class C. It also makes people more aware of the potential harm they will do themselves if the drug they may take is class A. e.g.

  • Heroin - Class A. Max 7 years for posession, life for supply
  • Steroids - Class C. Posession legal. 14 years for supply
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The reclassification of cannabis

Cannabis started as a class B drug, but was reclassified to be Class C, but then again in 2009 back to class B due to stronger skunk cannabis which increased the chance of long term effects

Reasons for allowing cannabis

  • alcohol and tobacco are legal and seem to have a much worse affect on society
  • there is conflicting evidence as to whether cannabis is harmful or addictive

Reasons for not allowing cannabis:

  • mental health hospital admissions due to cannabis are rising
  • the average age for first time skunk use is 13
  • It is seen as a gateway drug, so people could move on to class A
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Social drugs

  • The age restriction doesn't stop young people getting hold of them
  • tobacco causes lung cancer, heart disease and bronchitis
  • It is illegal to smoke in enclosed public places
  • Both nicotine and alcohol can harm an unborn child
  • Alcohol is involved in many deaths each year, many from drunk driving
  • Alcohol causes liver damage, heart problems and obesity
  • Both nicotine and alcohol are addictive
  • Excess alcochol can lead to antisocial behaviour

Both cigarettes and acohol are heavily taxed to dissuade people. Heavy smokers and drinkers can spend thousands a year, which can leave less for neccesities

This money from tax goes to the NHS, which spends billions on illnesses relating to these drugs. Luckily this is only 1/3 of the money raised from tax. The rest can be spent elsewhere

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Why do people use drugs?


  • pubs and nightclubs are good places to meet people and drinking is part of the scene - everybody else drinks. Social/ peer pressure
  • they enjoy being under the influence
  • it gives people confidene
  • It is done by their family and often associated with celebration


  • They need to smoke to relax and are addicted
  • they have grown up in a smoking household and follow their role models
  • they think smoking keeps their weight down

Illegal drugs-

  • they take them to enjoy a night out more
  • they were influenced by peer pressure
  • they help peole to cope with personal crisises and low self esteem

they are influenced by the medias view on youth culture

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Reasons for not using alcohol or tobacco

  • Sikhs say that alcohol distracts the mind from God
  • Buddhism does not allow either because of the potential harm for yourself and others
  • Hindus are allowed to smoke and drink as long as the user does not become dependant
  • Islam bans alcohol as it makes the mind unfit to concentrate on Allah. Smoking is discouraged as it harms the body
  • Jews and most Christians discourage smoking because of the harm it does, but leaves it to individual choice
  • Christians and Jews both allow drinking in moderation
  • Some people don't drink because of past experiences or social principles
  • Some people don't smoke because of health and the health of those around them
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Reasons for not using illegal drugs

The dealer on the street is often overlooked so that the police can find the person who supplies him. In practice, taking lots of drugs off of the street would just result in a price rise in drugs, so addicts having to find more money

Social consequences:

  • Addicts often have to turn to crime to fund their habit
  • Addiction is likely to hurt the close family and friends of the addict


  • Buddhism, Islam and Sikhism ban illegal drugs for the same reason as alcohol and Smoking
  • Christianity emphasises the harm drugs do
  • Judaism emphasises the breaking of law and lack of self-control
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What can be done about addiction?

Some people say that it is the adddicts fault that they are addicted and that they should sort it out themselves

Unless done privately it can be hard to get onto rehabilitation programmes as they are limited. Some prison sentences come with a rehabilitation programme

Some people do manage to change their lives, but in reality rehabilitation has a very low success rate

Although religions condemn addicts, they still encourage helping them

  • Sikhs see it as their duty to help others in society
  • Christians believe they should help where they can - "what you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me"
  • Hindus believe that helping gains good karma, although addiction is seen as a result of bad karma
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