Recreational Drugs and God’s Plan

Recreational Drugs
The Bible tells Christians that the body is the “Temple of the Holy Spirit” and warns us not to destroy it but to take care of it. (See 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and 6:19-20.) It also tells us to live in such a way that those who know us and watch us are encouraged by our lifestyle and not offended by what we do. (See Romans 14:21.) Recreational drugs should not be part of a Christian’s lifestyle.

In spite of all the teachings and warnings, the Church has been very silent on the evils of recreational drugs while those drugs are doing massive damage. The numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics for 2015 show that 10,265 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes in the United States. Recent numbers from the Highway Loss Data Institute show that since the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington state auto insurance claims have increased 6% more than in neighboring states.

Can you imagine the response of the American public if an enemy managed to kill over 10,000 of our people every year? In spite of that, we see repeated attempts to justify the use of alcohol and recreational marijuana even in many discussions in the Church. This is the most destructive thing that has ever happened to Americans, and yet we are silent about its use.

God calls His people to avoid those things that would impair both our function and our example. We must not let our culture numb us into complacency about the destructive issue of recreational drugs.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Dangers of Long-term Marijuana Use

Dangers of Long-term Marijuana Use
A newly released study indicates the dangers of long-term marijuana use. The bottom line is that it alters brain cells.

The study was published in Jneurosci (The Journal of Neuroscience) on October 16. The researchers focused on the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the brain. Dopamine and serotonin receptors are concentrated there. Those receptors give a person the sensation of pleasure.

The scientists conducted the study on mice in their “teen” and “adolescent” stages of life. The mice received injections of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) every day for a week. THC is the principal psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Marijuana (as well as opioids and alcohol) stimulates the VTA to release dopamine resulting in an experience of pleasure and the desire for more. There is a GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) cell in the VTA which acts as an inhibitor. When the brain releases GABA, it serves to restrain the desire for pleasure and keep it under control.

In the week of receiving THC, the GABA neurons lost their ability to control the desire for pleasure. They were in a state of “long-term depression” (LTD). This caused the dopamine to remain longer in the VTA giving a sense of being “spaced out,” and leading to addiction.

The researchers stated that the long-term effect of the THC was to remodel the brain’s synapses resulting in reduced “synaptic plasticity.” The synapses carry electrical or chemical signals from one nerve cell (neuron) to another. This “synaptic modification” is changing the brain at the cellular level.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is published by the American Psychiatric Association, and it is the standard reference used by mental health professionals at all levels. The current edition is DSM-5. It defines cannabis (marijuana) use disorder as a “problematic pattern of cannabis use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress.”

In other words, marijuana impairs the ability of people to do things they need to do or even want to do. We have cautioned before about the dangers of long-term marijuana use and the consequences of legalization and wide-spread availability. This study confirms that danger.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Medical Marijuana–Good or Bad

Medical Marijuana
All the discussion of medical marijuana and the questions of legalization are based on the assumption that people understand the endocannabinoid system (ECS) of the human body. The general public is almost universally unaware of this system, and yet it is a major player in the question of the use of medical marijuana.

In our brain and throughout our central and peripheral nervous systems we have receptors that are involved in appetite, pain sensation, mood, sleep, and memory. This complex system operates by chemical reactions with enzymes and molecules released by the system itself called endocannabinoids. When life experiences such as stress act on the brain, chemical secretions influence the ECS system and our behavior.

Marijuana contains phytocannabinoids which interact with the endocannabinoids which the body makes. The scientific name for marijuana is Cannabis sativa, and this plant contains more than 100 different cannabinoids as well as hundreds of other chemicals. The following cannabinoids have been studied enough to know what effect they have on the human brain:

Cannabidiols (CBD)

– painkiller, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anxiety reducer, antipsychotic, reduces muscle spasms

Tetrahydrocannabinols (THC)

– painkiller, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, euphoriant, suppresses nausea and vomiting

Cannabigerols (CBG)

– painkiller, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antifungal

Cannabichromenes (CBC)

– painkiller, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antifungal

Cannabinols and Cannabinodiols (CBN, CBND)

– anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, sedative, anti-convulsant

Marijuana has a high potential for abuse, but it also has useful purposes. As we understand more about the design of our brain and nervous system, we will find ways that cannabinoids can be used to relieve human suffering. However, medical marijuana benefits do not come from smoking it which can damage the lungs and become addictive just as cigarette smoking does. Tests have shown that long-term use can lead to psychotic disorders, heart problems, and sexual/reproductive problems.

Marijuana itself is not evil, and certainly not a creation of Satan as some have implied. Humans can and do use marijuana as a destructive agent, but God designed it and intended it for good.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Legalizing Marijuana and Being a Convicted Christian

Marijuana
As of November 11, 2016, the number of states in the US that have legalized medical marijuana is 28. The Gallup poll tells us that 60% of all Americans approve the legalizing of marijuana. Celebrities like Willie Nelson and Snoop Dog now have their own marijuana lines. Tech companies like Microsoft have developed software for cannabis growers. In Colorado, nearly half of all marijuana sales are for THC-infused items. Pot shops sell ice cream laced with THC as well as cannabis-infused breath spray, energy shots, and bacon brittle. There are now marijuana massage oils, body lotions, and lip balms.

There are some reasons why one might support making marijuana legal. Criminalizing the use and sale of drugs has produced the violent drug cartels and has filled prisons with people who were not in power positions with the cartels. Legalizing marijuana allows the states to tax it. In Colorado, the income to the state has generated 2.4 billion dollars in economic activity and has created 18,000 full-time jobs. Promoters of marijuana now point to scientific data showing that marijuana is less dangerous to the individual than alcohol or tobacco. From a political and economic standpoint, it may seem that the legalization of marijuana is a good thing.

From a purely political standpoint, however, there are some good reasons to oppose the legalization of marijuana. In Washington State, the number of drivers involved in fatal car crashes who tested positive for THC rose by 48% between 2013 and 2014 when legalized marijuana hit the market. Also in Washington, the number of DUI arrests during the first six months after the legalization of marijuana nearly doubled. The number of patients hospitalized in Colorado for accidentally ingested marijuana rose from 809 patients per 100,000 to 2,413 after marijuana was legalized, with a large percentage of the victims being children. The use of marijuana by Americans has more than doubled in the last 12 years to 8.4 million people. The long-term effect of marijuana use is just beginning to be studied, but the adolescent use of marijuana has been shown to cause significant losses of IQ points and an increased risk of psychotic illness. In my hippie days, LSD was said to be harmless by its proponents, but we now know that certainly was not true. It is undoubtedly not true for marijuana.

You may have noticed that the title of this article includes the term “convicted Christian.” First Corinthians 3:16-17 tells us that our bodies are “God’s temple” and that the Spirit of God lives in us. “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him: for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” A little later in chapter 6:15-20 Paul goes on to repeat the concept that our bodies are members of Christ himself and raises the issue regarding uniting with a prostitute. He concludes the discussion by saying “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:22 Paul encourages Christians to “abstain from every appearance of evil.” The question becomes, “What is our first priority?” Is it serving God or finding pleasure while trying to avoid getting in so deep that we lose our souls.

Saying that marijuana is less dangerous to the human body than alcohol or nicotine is an incredibly poor argument to justify using marijuana. Just as Christians should oppose the use of marijuana, we should oppose the use of alcohol as a social drug. Do we really mean what we say when we talk about “dying to sin” in the language of Romans 6? It is important to understand that what we are addressing in this discussion is the use of marijuana as a recreational drug. Are there medical uses of marijuana that can make it a positive tool of medical science? The answer is yes. That answer is also true of alcohol. In 1 Timothy 5:23 Paul tells Timothy to “take a little wine for your stomach’s sake.” Paul certainly wasn’t telling Timothy to get drunk. The use of alcohol in the time of Paul to fight contaminated water and infection was not the same as an alcoholic drink used to take the drinker to non-reality. Marijuana may have some great uses in treating cancer, pain, and any number of ailments. To be used medically, for the most part, the marijuana would not be smoked. The medical use of anything God has given us is certainly not at odds with the teaching of the Bible. There are may be good uses for marijuana, but there are also destructive uses. Data from The Week, November 25, 2016, page 11.
–John N. Clayton © 2017