Religious Attitudes to Drug Abuse

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Introduction: What is a drug?

Drug: a substance which, when taken, affects the body or mind
Can be natural or manufactured in a lab. Effects could be beneficial in preventing/curing illness, provided used in the correct way.

Prescription Drugs: Drugs legally obtained only with a doctor's consent.
More powerful. Accidental overdoses can cause problems/become fatal.

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Introduction: Drug abuse

Drug abuse: using drugs in a way that harms the user

Prescribed drugs taken in excess, by the wrong person or taken with other drugs (eg. alcohol) can have devastating effects

Illegal Drugs: drugs which are illegal to possess, sell or use; put into 3 classifications according to potential harm and addictiveness.

Some have no medicinal value. Often have serious side effects incl. death and are usually addictive.

Social Drugs: legal drugs which are still addictive. eg. alcohol, nicotine, caffeine etc.

Age controlled but widely available; give government a huge amount of tax money through selling them.
Social drugs can cause serious health problems, addictiveness and even death.

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Introduction: Religious beliefs about the body and

None of six major religions permit followers to take illegal drugs. Vast majority believe that taking such drugs is wrong because of the negative influence on the body and mind.

A few hindu holy men use bhang - mild form of cannabis - however not permitted in mainstream hinduism.
ECC and Rastafarians allow use of cannabis because a natural herb that God provided

Jews, Christians and Muslims strongly against taking illegal drug and misuse of prescription drugs because of damage to body and mind, which God made.
Christians and Muslims: compare body to God's temple and the destruction of God's temple is seen as an attack on God's authority.

Buddhism: Fifth Precept: "to undertake to abstain from the use of any intoxicating substance that can harm the mind" - strictly against illegal and misuse of drugs.

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Rights and Responsibilities

Right to medical care if fall ill (NHS). Right to a GP or doctor. Right to drugs prescribed to help control or cure illness.

Responsibility to ensure drugs don't get in the wrong hands. Large illegal demand for prescription drugs such as anabolic steroids and tranquillisers. Some people illegally sell old prescribed drugs or drugs they have obtained from the GP by deception.

Some say they have the right to take whatever drug they can afford to; don't take into account their responsibilities to others when under the influence.
However, their activities cost the public a lot of money when they are sent to prison or want to be sent to rehab.

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Drugs and the Law

Legal status of drugs always causing dilemmas.
Legal drugs: drugs that can be purchased legally. Some have age-restrictions
Solvents: Some aerosols, glue and gas lighter refills abused by sniffing, which can cause hallucinations and be fatal.
Caffeine: a mild legal stimulant found in coffee, chocolate etc.

  • Social drugs legal despite causing a lot of damage to user and others. Sale is age-restricted to 18+
  • Prescribed drugs are legal but only for the person for whom prescribed to.
  • over-the-counter drugs legal.
  • Household solvents which can be abused are not legally controlled. Retailers advised that it is illegal to sell to someone who might abuse them. Some age-resticted.
  • Illegal drugs illegally manufactured and sold.

Caffeine can cause a person to become more awake or alert or to give a temp. feeling of well-being. Often known as the mood-altering drug. In large quantities can be addictive and cause interruption of sleep patterns etc.
Yet, regularly given to small children; not controlled.

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Classification of Illegal Drugs

Drug Classification: three legal categories by which illegal drugs are classified in British law according to the level of harm they do and how addictive they are.

Illegal drugs graded A, B or C. Those most harmful put in class A, with the least harmful and addictive in class C.
Pro: government able to issue harsher sentences for possessing or selling class A drugs that for class C.
People can be in no doubt about harm they are doing to themselves.

"everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God." - Romans 13 - Christianity

Example of Class A: Heroin - maximum 7 yrs in prison for possession; maximum life in prison for supply
Example of Class B: Cannabis - Max 5 yrs for possession; max 14 yrs for supply
Example of Class C: Anabolic steroids - possession legal; max 14 yrs for illegal supply

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Reclassification of Cannabis

Cannabis: a class B drug which is usually smoked, which some wish to be legalised.

Graded class B in 1971; since then, use has increased with few apparent ill effects.

For downgrading classification: alcohol and tobacco have worse effects on user's health and society despite it is legal

In response to above argument, reclassification to class C came in 2004. Dealing cannabis still resulted in 14 year jail sentence or fine.

2008 - cannabis would revert to class B as of early 2009. Reason: much stronger form of cannabis rose in usage to 81%. Increased likelihood of users experiencing worse side-effects (also long-term) - more harmful and arguably more addictive.

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Effects of Cannabis

Effects of cannabis:

  • 1000 people a year develop long-term psychotic illness due to cannabis use
  • Mental health hospital admissions due to effects of cannabis rose by 63% from 2002-2007
  • 500/week need medical treatment after using cannabis
  • av. age of a first time user is 13, which raises fears about future mental health.
  • Cannabis "gateway" drug - raises possibility of a habit which can develop into using class A's
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Social Drugs

  • Tobacco: used in cigarettes and cigars, it contains nicotine an addictive social drug
  • Alcohol: an addictive social drug found in beer, wine, spirits etc.

Have age-restrictions however:

  • Does not stop young people getting hold of tobacco or alcohol
  • Tobacco causes lung cancer, bronchitis, heart disease etc. 
  • Over 120,000 people die in Britain due to smoking-related diseases
  • From 2007, it is illegal to smoke in enclosed public place
  • Nicotine and alcohol harm an unborn child
  • Alcohol is a depressant
  • Alcohol causes death including drinking and driving
  • Alcohol causes liver damage, obesity, heart damage
  • Nicotine and alcohol are addictive
  • Excessive alcohol can cause antisocial behaviour. 

Make not your own hands contribute to your destruction - Qur'an 2

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Taxes on alcohol and tobacco

Cigarettes heavily taxed to encourage people not to smoke

Alcohol not taxed as much, but in the hope that people will drink less

Heavy smokers and drinkers have to find thousands of pounds to buy supplies. If price increases, either have to cut down or find money elsewhere. Can cause a family to have to cut down on other necessities. 

Money collected in tax goes to NHS:  

  • copes with extra demands from smokers and drinkers
  • more tax earned than needed from NHS so tax subsidises other areas eg. Education
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Why do people drink alcohol?


  • Enjoy taste of alcoholic drinks 
  • Pubs and nightclubs social - drinking part of scene
  • Enjoy being under influence of alcohol
  • Addicted to alcohol
  • Friends drink, so they want to 
  • Family life encourages alcohol at meal time
  • Alcohol connected to celebration
  • Alcohol gives confidence
  • Peer pressure
  • Advertising influence

Wine is a mocker and beer is a brawler; whoever is lead astray by them is not wise - Proverbs 20

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Why do people smoke tobacco?


  • Enjoy taste and sensation
  • Relax
  • Addicted to nicotine
  • Friends smoke
  • Grown up in smoking household - normal thing
  • Keep weight down
  • Not harm them, even though harms others
  • Following role models who smoke
  • Antisocial if they refuse

There are four sins that are particularly serious (one of which is)... using toboacco... - Rahit Maryada (Sikh)

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Why do people take illegal drugs?

Illegal drugs

  • Addicted to them
  • Helps enjoy a night out
  • Progressed from legal drugs
  • Tricked into taking illegal drugs
  • Peer pressure
  • Following role models
  • Seems to improve poor self esteem
  • Cope with crises
  • Mix with people who take/deal illegal drugs
  • Influenced by media 

He must not get wilfully addicted to any...substance of self-gratification; he must try to overcome such dependence through will power - Laws of Manu (Hindu)

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Reasons for not using alcohol and tobacco

  • Sikhs obey kurahits - rules out use of alcohol and tobacco - intoxicants, affects mind, distracts from God. 
  • Buddhist 5th Precept - potential harm alcohol and tobacco can do to others; create bad karma (hindu as well)
  • Hinduism allows drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco as long as users don't become dependant
  • Islam - alcohol haram (forbidden) - makes mind unfit to focus on Allah and duties. Smoking banned during Ramadan fast
  • Judaism and Christianity don't forbit alcohol - use in Holy Communion. Smoking discouraged but left to individual choice. 

It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall - Romans 14

The mind of a drunken person becomes confused, then the confused mind commits sins... a wise person should never even try wine and other intoxicants - Arthashaastra of Kautilya (Hindu)

Drinking the wine, his intellegence departs, and madness enters his mind - Guru Granth Sahib 

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Reasons for not using illegal drugs

Bodily and mental harm; addictive.

Penalties for supplying illegal drugs - 14 years (Class B/C) to life (Class A)

Problems for society - if shortage in drugs, price may rise, addicts need to find more money

    • Steal money/items to be sold - continuing cycle
    • Hurt those closest to them - addiction dominates family life 


Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism forbid use - same reasons for alcohol and smoking

Christianity, Hindusim, Judaism also against 

    • Christian emphasis on individual, family, society
    • Jews, use is breaking law, encourages lack of self-control and causes harm
    • Christianity and Judaism teach compassion and help should be offered to addicts

To undertake to abstain from using intoxicants - Fifth Precept

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What can be done about addiction?

Rehabilitation: process by which addicts are helped to defeat their addiction to drugs

  • More investment could be made in enforcement, fewer illegal drugs reach street
  • Sentences on users and dealers increased
  • With more investment, rehab could be provided and made compulsory for all addicts
  • Investment improving life in socially deprived areas - reduce numbers of young people taking drugs
  • Focus on drugs education in schools and media

Religious views on helping addicts

  • Keen to help conquer addiction
  • Sikhs - Sewa; Buddhists - Right action from Eightfold Path, shows metta and karuna
  • Christianity - 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick' - Mark 2
  • Hinduism - ahimsa (no harming), dharma (duty); Islam - help muslims who tempted by drugs

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