OMG!-The Words of Jesus: Great Advice for Avoiding Addiction

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As a young policeman, I learned to hate drugs with a passion. In these early days of my law enforcement career, I saw the devastation that it brought upon families, households, and neighborhoods. Drug addiction had the capability to reduce healthy men and women to animals. I won’t describe the walks taken through vacant homes also known as “shooting galleries” where drug addicts would self-administer heroin through intravenous injection or inhale crack cocaine with homemade pipes. But needless to say, if you walked through one you would be stunned with the foulness of the environs.

As a rookie, I remember taking a stroll through one of these galleries and encountering a woman with ulcers all over her very swollen legs and arms. The ulcers were caused by the constant “skin popping” with used needles. Healthy vascularity was impeded by the impurity of the heroin (caused by the “cut” or the powder chemicals used to dilute it), thus the swollen limbs. In addition to my experiences with the de-humanizing aspects of drug abuse, I have been personally impacted by drug addiction through several relatives who succumbed to the siren song of promised happiness even as I observed them spin in a vortex of despondency.

Ross after making undercover drug purchases circa 1989

My disdain for narcotics dealing increased as I transferred into the street narcotics squad after a year of serving in uniformed patrol. I had a pretty good success rate of buying drugs off of street dealers. I guess it did not take too much skill. I just had to grunt, speak unintelligibly, and wave the cash around. That usually did the trick. However, there was one time where I fell for the old “I’ll be right back with the crack; here hold my driver’s license for collateral; I won’t rip you off” ploy. Needless to say, I did not feel brilliant after letting the money walk. Fortunately, my supervisor wasn’t too bent out of shape for losing the twenty dollars. Out of the many times I bought dope, there was one other time I was “ripped off.” However, we did catch up with this greedy street dealer and we decided to charge him with stealing.

Humorous stories abound in the annals of undercover narcotics purchasing. One of our detectives, after “striking out” all night, realized why when someone noticed his badge emblazoned hat perched atop his head. Another rookie detective asked a dealer for “a rock” and was given “a rock of the white quartz variety” in return after he paid the unscrupulous street thug twenty dollars for what he thought was a piece of crack cocaine (this scenario made for quite a laugh in the courtroom at the expense of the detective). On another occasion, our squad came up with the idea of driving around in a dump truck purchasing drugs with the arrest team waiting concealed in the bed. However, on our very first try, the dealer jumped up on the running board of the truck and ogled the team in the bed before refusing to sell to the driver.

There are many more stories of misadventure to tell. Even though I attempted to inject some humor into this blog post, the topic of drug abuse is a very serious matter today. It is astounding to see the meteoric rise in drug related deaths. A USA Today article entitled “Life expectancy is down for a second year: Drug overdoses are a big reason why” shares that the major reason for this slide is due to the dramatic increase in drug overdoses, drug related traffic crashes, and falls amongst younger people. In 1999, the frequency of the aforementioned deaths occurred at a rate of 6.1 per 100,00 compared with 19.8 per 100,000 in 2016. [1]

In addition to this jump in drug related deaths, drug overdoses have quadrupled from 1999 to 2015 with a total of 183,000 deaths occurring in this time span (wow!). Moreover, the burgeoning epidemic of opioid addiction is felt here in North Carolina as well. An article entitled, “Opioid Epidemic Strains Hospital Emergency Room” reports that emergency rooms here in NC are very likely to have patients in the middle of overdoses getting treatment at any time. The article went on to say that since 2012, “ER” visits with a substance abuse diagnosis are up almost 75%. [2]

In addition to this rise in drug addiction, a JAMA Psychiatry study released in 2017 reports that “high-risk” drinking (women 4 or more per day/men 5 or more per day) rose a hefty 29.9% between 2002 and 2013. This same report also noted an alarming 50% rise in “problem” drinking (where it causes recurrent and significant problems in your life/alcohol dependence) in the same time period.[3] Regarding why people are getting into more trouble than before, Dr. Schuckit, an alcohol researcher, opined in a Huffington Post article that one reason for the increase in alcoholism is likely the increased social acceptability of being tipsy (environmental factors comprise half of the risk). [4] After reviewing these studies, it would not be an overstatement to say that the U.S. has a very serious problem with drugs/alcohol dependence. Did Jesus Christ say anything relevant for us to consider today?

In Luke chapter twenty-one, Jesus is discussing his imminent departure from the Earth, cataclysmic events occurring in the future, and the importance of being ready in the event of his second coming. In verse 34, he admonishes his disciples to remain vigilant in the faith during trying times and not to engage in “carousing, drunkenness, and the anxieties of life.” Jesus states that engaging in a lifestyle characterized by these activities will not meet with his approval. Jesus warns us not to be in a state of drunkenness. Even though Jesus does not explicitly address the topic of drug abuse, surely being drunk or carousing would encompass “getting high.” In this one verse, not only is Jesus alerting us to the importance of being sober but also that not being sober has eternal consequences. God wishes us to live our lives soberly, centered on caring for others, and in right relationship with him. Moreover, it is easily observed that Dr. Schuckit’s above-mentioned observation of the increased acceptance of drunkenness in the USA stands in contrast to the warnings of Jesus against living a life characterized by “carousing and drunkenness.”

As the designer of human beings, Jesus knows the consequences of lives that are mainly concerned with the prurient self-interest of escaping one’s problems by drug or alcohol intoxication. His aforementioned words are great advice on how we can live the most fulfilled and productive lives here and now. Furthermore, implicit in this passage is the greater reality of eternal life with Him in opposition to this temporary life with all of its cares and snares.

As observed in past OMG! posts (click here and click here) , the words of Jesus are not only succinct and to the point, but also give great advice on how to live your life moment to moment. God does not force anyone to live a certain way yet advises that there are consequences when you place your selfish desires at the center of your life. Even as Thomas was confronted with the risen Jesus Christ and proclaimed “OMG!,” I can read His words that are still very relevant today and proclaim “OMG!,” these words are truly of divine origin. If we, as a society, would only embrace the words of “God Incarnate,” we could reverse the devastating trend wrought by the blight of drug abuse/alcoholism in the U.S. However, modern pop culture media, which promotes base values such as drug use, alcohol intoxication, and free sex, obscures the simple Christian ethic of pure living with all of its attendant benefits.

1 Painter, K. “Life expectancy is down for a second year. Drug overdoses are a big reason why.” USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/12/21/u-s-life-expectancy-drops-second-year-drug-deaths-spike-cdc/970283001/ Date of access: 18 April 2018.
2 Debruyn, J. “Opioid Epidemic Strains Hospital Emergency Room.” http://wunc.org/post/opioid-epidemic-strains-hospital-emergency-departments#stream/0. Date of access: 18 April 2018.
3 Grant, B. F., Chou, S. P., & Saha,T. D., et al. “Prevalence of 12-Month Alcohol Use, High-Risk Drinking, and DSM-IV Alcohol Use Disorder in the United States, 2001-2002 to 2012-2013Results From the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.” JAMA Psychiatry. Date of access: 18 April 2018.
4 Martinez, J.D. “Americans are drinking more, But why?” Huffington Post. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/americans-are-drinking-more-but-why_us_598c9b1ce4b0caa1687a5e6c Date of access: 17 April 2018.

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