Tag Archives: addiction

Why Shouldn’t I Use Marijuana and Other “Recreational” Drugs?

The negative consequences of using drugs “recreationally” far outweigh their short-term pleasures.

First are the physical effects. Marijuana, for instance, may have dangerous long-term effects, including cancers of the head and neck. Amphetamines and cocaine are highly addictive and cause rapid physical deterioration. Barbiturates depress the central nervous system and are so physically addictive that withdrawal can be fatal if someone dependent on them attempts to stop taking them without medical supervision. (Another peculiar danger of barbiturates is the ease with which a person can take a fatal overdose.) Alcohol, too, is highly addictive for persons with a genetic tendency towards alcoholism.

Most drugs that are used for “recreational” purposes are physically addictive to some degree. All of them are psychologically addictive. Because they chemically induce euphoria and an altered state of consciousness, they introduce what has been called the “pendulum effect.” As the effect of the drug wears off, the user pays a price for the experience of a chemically induced “high.” The user’s emotional state following an artificial high is invariably worse than his original one. This produces an slightly greater dose of the drug is needed to duplicate the same effect.1This pendulum effect often results in a vicious cycle of escalating drug use. 2

The term jaded has long been used to describe a person whose normal sensitivities have been dulled by obsessive pursuit of pleasure. Today there is serious concern that at least some artificial highs may cause permanent damage to the nervous system. Chemically induced highs—especially in the case of such powerful drugs as cocaine—may permanently diminish a person’s capacity to experience physical and emotional pleasure. But even if artificial highs cause no permanent damage, they interfere with the development of our ability to experience the legitimate joys and pleasures that God designed to be part of daily living.

  1. 1. Increasing immunity to the effects of a drug is called tolerance. Back To Article
  2. Tolerance for a drug occurs when greater amounts of the drug are required to achieve the same high. Back To Article
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Is Masturbation Wrong?

The fact that the Bible doesn’t specifically mention masturbation implies that we should approach this topic with sensitivity and caution. Most teenagers and single adults face an enormous struggle coming to terms with their sexual longings. Often the individuals who are most conscientious about their sexual feelings are the ones most likely to be tormented by unrealistic guilt. If we add to Scripture and weigh them down with even more unwarranted guilt, we become like the Pharisees and their legal experts. To protect holy principles, they added their own laws to Moses — like fences around fences — and in the process they heaped on others burdens that they themselves were not willing or able to bear (Luke 11:46).

If we are honest, each of us will acknowledge the difficulty of keeping sexually pure in a permissive and sexually obsessed culture. We struggle to avoid either of two extremes. We must not surrender to the hedonistic spirit of the age, but we also want to avoid the spirit of asceticism and proud self-denial that has often marred the history of Christianity. Any belief that our sexual desires and feelings are evil in themselves is based in the Gnostic1 denial of the goodness of the body and the natural world, not in the teachings of Scripture (1 Timothy 3:1-3).

On the other hand, we can’t entirely discount the significance of habitual masturbation as a moral issue simply because it isn’t mentioned in Scripture. One doesn’t speak of “habitual” eating or “habitual” sleeping unless someone is eating or sleeping much more than they should. The fact that you realize you are caught up in a cycle of habitual behavior implies that you know that something is wrong.

All of life’s pleasures have an appropriate context. When we eat entirely for pleasure, we become flabby and unhealthy. When we sleep much more than is needed for rest and bodily health, we become mentally and physically ill. Any misuse of legitimate pleasure has bad consequences.

The purpose of sexual pleasure is to nurture intimacy and unity between a husband and wife (Genesis 2:24 ; Mark 10:6-8 ; Ephesians 5:28-32). Sexual desire is related to our deepest longings, our profoundest potential for intimacy and joy. It is like a fire. In the right circumstances a fire provides warmth, light, and food. In the wrong place it has enormous capacity for destruction.

The Bible doesn’t provide a detailed discussion of human sexual issues. It tends to refer to sexual matters indirectly and with considerable delicacy. For example, even the term sex isn’t used in the Bible, and the male and female sexual organs are referred to only indirectly, as is the act of intercourse. Even such a serious issue as pedophilia isn’t mentioned specifically. It’s likely, therefore, that although it isn’t mentioned specifically in Scripture, habitual masturbation would be included under the categories of “lasciviousness,” “impurity,” and “uncleanness” (e.g. Leviticus 15:16-17 ; Mark 7:20-22 ; 2 Corinthians 12:21 ; Galatians 5:19 ; Ephesians 5:3,5 ; Colossians 3:5).2

What are some of the illegitimate uses of sexual pleasure that we should be on guard against?

Sexual pleasure shouldn’t serve merely as a “pressure valve” for the release of physical and emotional tension. There are more constructive, loving ways to release — and even to harness — our physical and emotional tension.

Sexual pleasure shouldn’t be fed by sinful fantasy. Jesus made it clear that sexual sin isn’t limited to physical act. Sin occurs equally in fantasy and imagination. There is a healthy imagination that leads to actions that honor one another, and a self-absorbed imagination that inclines us to use others for our own pleasure (Matthew 5:27-30; 15:19). Sexual fantasy can be a destructive expression of rage, revenge, or lust. Such unhealthy fantasies can scar and harden our hearts even if they aren’t carried out in the real world.

Sexual pleasure should never be a way we demand that God satisfy us immediately, on our terms. We should never expect sexual pleasure to compensate for our loneliness, disappointment, powerlessness, or sense of rejection. If we use it for these reasons, it is illegitimate.

Followers of Christ have been given freedom and forgiveness to love and honor one another, but not to be enslaved again to the flesh (Romans 6:16). We have been given God’s Spirit and wisdom so that we can understand that our bodies make good servants — and cruel masters.

  1. . Gnostics represented a wide range of beliefs, but they universally believed that a certain gnosis (wisdom) could be attained that is far more important than “mere obedience” to God’s moral law. Paul’s strong words in 1 Corinthians 6:13-20 were written in response to a Gnostic heresy that claimed one could sin “in the body” without sinning “in the spirit.” The Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) were also written largely to counter an early form of Gnosticism, as were a number of other sections of the New Testament.
    Gnostics tended to deny the goodness of the material world and of physical life. They glorified the spirit while maintaining that the body was evil and the source of every kind of corruption. If you are interested in Gnostic beliefs, it would be well worth your time to read about Gnosticism in a good Church History text, like A History Of Christianity by Kenneth Scott Latourette, or A History Of The Christian Church by Williston Walker. Back To Article
  2. Leviticus 15:16-17 makes it clear that masturbation would have been considered “unclean” under Old Testament Law. On page 12 of his highly regarded book, Homosexuality And The Politics Of Truth, Dr. Jeffrey Satinover comments:

    On the basis of the Pentateuch, the Talmud treats all sexual activity outside of marital relations, including masturbation, unequivocally as sins, though it makes careful distinctions concerning their varying severity.Back To Article

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Why Shouldn’t I View Pornography or Sexually Explicit Educational Videos?

Pornography and sexually explicit “educational” videos don’t promote the development of love and intimacy — they undermine it. A married couple may benefit from better knowledge of sexual physiology and technique, but information about sex should be provided in a way that respects the tenderness, mystery, and wonder of marital love. Filmed sex is a crass violation of human dignity and intimacy.

Intimacy is a matter of the heart. It can’t be captured by bright lights and a camera. All that can be captured on film is an illusion of intimacy. Lonely people who watch pornography in hopes of satisfying some of their longing for intimacy will be drawn in the opposite direction — toward voyeurism and self-absorbed lust. In fact,the more a person succeeds in imitating pornography, the more he will fall into the snare of sexual addiction and the further he will be from understanding the nature of real love.

Scripture contains some of the most beautiful erotic literature ever written ( Song Of Solomon 4:9-15; 5:10-16 ). It is clear that God created us as sexual beings, and He intends for us to delight in our sexuality when expressed within the bond of marriage. But Scripture also contains severe warnings against self-absorbed lust ( Exodus 20:17 ; Proverbs 5:3-6; 9:13 ; Matthew 5:28; 15:16-20 ; Colossians 3:4-7 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:2-7 ). In the same epistle in which the apostle Paul wrote his marvelous “love chapter,” he made a striking observation about sexual sin:

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

In these verses Paul indicated what it is about sexual sin that makes it so destructive. He declared that it is a sin “against the body.” This clearly refers to much more than the mere physical effects of sexual sin. Real love and intimacy require a commitment of the heart ( 1 John 2:16; 4:8 ). Human sexuality is designed for much deeper purposes than mere sensual pleasure, release of tension, and self-gratification. It was designed to express the passionate, tender unity of a husband and wife in committed love. The apostle Paul wrote:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ Himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who unites himself to the Lord is one with Him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:15-17).

“A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery (Ephesians 5:31-32).

If a person commits his body to sex according to the pornographic model, the power of self-absorbed lust is released in full force,untempered by love. The Scriptures warn us that this will produce a darkened mind and an insensitive and hardened heart ( Romans 1:21-24; Ephesians 4:17-19 ). As a hardened heart and darkened mind vainly try to duplicate the joy of an intimacy in counterfeit form,the flames of lust flare with ever greater intensity. As lust grows, so does sexual addiction, diminishing our ability to experience in the body the ecstasy of real intimacy and genuine erotic love.

A book you may find helpful is False Intimacy by Dr. Harry Schaumberg (Navpress).

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How Can I Overcome My Urge to View Pornography?

Each of us is vulnerable to the temptation of sexual fantasy. When our faith is weak and we feel that real fulfillment and joy are out of our reach, it’s difficult to resist the powerful illusion of fulfillment that sexual fantasy offers. We shouldn’t be surprised when we are tempted, nor should we be surprised when we don’t quickly “outgrow” this temptation. Writing specifically about sexual temptation, the apostle Paul said, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man” ( 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 ).

It may be that pornographic fantasy and sexual addiction draw their strength from a natural desire to return to the world of intimacy and security that we may once have enjoyed as infants. In adult relationships, it takes a long time to develop real interpersonal intimacy and trust. We often feel lonely, powerless, and rejected. By contrast, wrongful sexual fantasy offers the illusion of instant intimacy, respect, and acceptance with anyone we want. The powerful illusion of sexual fantasy makes sexual addiction much more enslaving than it would be if it were the mere expression of a biological appetite.

The first step toward freedom is acknowledging that your sexual obsession has taken on a life of its own. A great deal of time and energy can be wasted trying to rationalize and conceal our secret sins.

The next step is facing the fact that there will be no quick cure. No matter how resolutely we pray for deliverance, sexual obsession never disappears in an hour, a month, or even a year. No miraculous spiritual gift will instantly free you from a habit that has had years to develop. You have much work to do.

Withdrawal from any addiction is painful. Withdrawal from sexual addiction involves agony that can’t be avoided. Heroin addicts sometimes take methadone in hopes of avoiding the pains of withdrawal. They soon discover, however, that their heroin addiction has been replaced with addiction to methadone. There can be no real cure without pain.

To jaded senses and underdeveloped emotions, the first experiences of real intimacy are too subtle and uncompelling to offer much comfort. Initially, no relationship or activity will provide the intense, short-term pleasure of sexual fantasy. Like the rush from a line of cocaine or the quick euphoria of an alcoholic when he “falls off the wagon,” sin offers pleasure for a season ( Hebrews 11:25 ).

Intimacy in relationships is a living thing that must be nourished and given time to grow. Like a beautiful flower that blooms at the end of summer and wafts fragrance to every corner of the garden, intimacy is the product of discipline and commitment. Soil must be tilled, seed planted, water carried, weeds removed, and plants protected. These activities offer little immediate encouragement to a person whose will and emotions have for a lifetime been responding only to immediate pleasures. But genuine love is the gateway to joy and fulfillment, and addiction to sexual fantasy directly obstructs real relationships with real people.

In the long term, effort expended in resisting sexual addiction will be rewarded many times over. But movement toward freedom from addiction requires obedience, and obedience requires faith. You have used sexual addiction as a means of avoiding the legitimate growing pains of life. Now it’s time to learn to embrace the legitimate pain you’ve been trying to avoid.

Trusting God in spite of emotional pain, loneliness, and frustration produces sensitivity to the depth and richness of life. To a child, the sun-dappled beauty of a woodland meadow in springtime is less appealing than the garish lights and glitter of a traveling carnival. But it’s time to move on to better things ( 1 Corinthians 13:11 ). Resist wrongful sexual fantasy over a period of time and you will begin to notice changes in your perceptions as the Holy Spirit gains greater influence in your life. Paul wrote:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Be grateful for the feelings of guilt, hypocrisy, and contamination that you experience when you fail to resist sexual temptation. These feelings don’t mean you are worthless or condemned in the eyes of God. His grace is still available to you ( Hebrews 13:20-21 ). These feelings are signs of spiritual life flowing within, the conviction of the Holy Spirit as He grants growing awareness of the repulsiveness and sterility of sin.

Don’t be ashamed to take steps to avoid circumstances and behavior that nourish your obsession. Satan, the “accuser of the brethren” ( Revelation 12:10 ) delights in making you feel as though you are inauthentic, a hypocrite, or a prude because you are resisting sinful thoughts and desires that are still part of you. Every Christian struggles with the same sense of dividedness ( Romans 7:21-23 ; Galatians 5:17 ), but don’t forget that you are fleeing from an addiction that leaves you empty and unsatisfied and are climbing toward the source of all pleasures ( John 4:14 ). Don’t forget too that the Bible promises that you will be given the strength to succeed ( 1 Corinthians 10:13 ).

One of the first steps you should take is to remove the source of temptation from your home. Then, instead of planning how you can do the things that have kept you in bondage, consciously avoid situations that expose you to temptation. Don’t lose sight of the fact that with time your healthy sensitivities and wholesome desires will grow, and the power of your addiction will fade into insignificance. Also, remember that God doesn’t judge you solely on the basis of your failures but on the basis of what you can become through Christ. Although your sin is an offense to God, He always loves you.

A book you may find helpful is False Intimacy by Dr. Harry Schaumberg (Navpress).

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Why Is Pornography Addiction a Serious Problem?

In ancient times, pornography was “writing about prostitutes.” (See the ATQ article Is Sexual Sin and Temptation a Bigger Problem Today Than It Was in the Early Church?) Today pornography is a multibillion dollar industry that is spreading a wide net by providing sexual arousal on demand.

1 Unlike most cultures that restrain and channel eroticism and sexuality so that a people’s energy isn’t squandered through dissipation and compulsive sex, modern culture is drenched with sexual images, sexualized. It is so obsessed with short term sensual pleasure that sexual self-control and chastity tend to be popularly viewed as manifestations of mental or emotional disorder.

Paul’s warnings against intercourse with a prostitute in 1 Corinthians have been too easily overlooked in respect to pornography.

All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 2 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-20 NIV)

If large numbers of evangelical Christians began using cocaine on a regular basis, we wouldn’t be surprised when many of them developed serious problems relating to cocaine addiction. Yet although pornography is as addictive as cocaine, legal, and available anonymously, we are surprised—even shocked—that large numbers of Evangelicals are pornography addicts.

“Porn is not swallowed or rubbed on the skin. It enters the body directly through your senses, such as your eyes and ears. This gives it a direct link to your central nervous system, specifically, the pleasure centers in your brain. Porn provides instant arousal, a real enticement in these days of “give it to me now!” The physiological changes that happen when using porn happen almost immediately: your heart beats faster, your breathing gets shallower, and you start to feel a throbbing in your genitals.” 3

Pornography provides a high-quality counterfeit of the sensual ecstasy of sex. Rather than experiencing sexual and emotional pleasure as part of a meaningful relationship with a real person, the pornography addict deceives his own body to substitute arousal through illusion and fantasy for real relationship.

For many centuries Christians have contemplated the impersonal religious prostitution associated with fertility religions in other times and places with rightful abhorrence. Yet they largely overlook the fact that a new form of “fertility worship” has moved in to fill the void of loneliness and meaninglessness in our rootless culture, and that the modern form is far more subtle, insidious, and addictive than those of the past.

Physiological effects of pornography are as great (or greater) than actual sex with a prostitute. 4 Sex with a prostitute involves a degree of realism, and more likelihood of remorse, sympathy, or disgust. Pornography has all of the perfection of illusion, with no physical-relational strings attached.

The social and familial consequences of overstimulation and obsession with sexual pleasure are “coming home to roost”. Until recently “conventional wisdom” about pornography held that it was either harmless or beneficial as a means of overcoming “sexual repression.” Today many secular psychologists are acknowledging the escalating effects of rampant pornographic addiction and describing its symptoms and effects.

  1. We are so awash in pornography these days that most of us don’t recognize it anymore. Of Internet users in the United States, 40 percent visit porn sites at least once a month. The number rises to more than 70 percent when the audience is men aged eighteen to thirty-four. The Internet has long been a driving force for the porn industry, pushing the bounds of access speed, streaming downloads, and file sharing. Now the cell-phone industry hopes porn will do for it what it’s done for the Web — make it very, very rich. The pornography industry brings in between $10 billion and $20 billion in the United States alone, and around $60 billion worldwide. (Hard numbers are hard to find, since cable giants and hotels chains are loathe to publicize their take from the skin industry.) That’s more than all professional sports. It’s three times more than Google, Yahoo, and MSN make in a year—combined. (quoted from “Not Your Father’s Pornography” by Jason Byasee). Back To Article
  2. Because they are “sins against the body,” sexual sins utilize the body’s powerful instinctive drives to create degrading forms of addictive behavior that wreak havoc both for the sinner and everyone within his/her sphere of influence.
    The Bible exalts human sexuality within marriage. It uses the image of husband and wife to portray the intimacy that exists between Christ and the church (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:21-33; Revelation 19:7), which is why Paul describes sexual sin with special concern. By means of sexual sin, the human will becomes the instrument by which the body’s reproductive instincts are misdirected to destructive ends, and, in turn, the body’s wholesome physical drives become complicit in enslaving the human will. The personal and social repercussions of sexual sin are extreme. Back To Article
  3. “Studies have found that just by being exposed to graphic sexual material, males . . . and females [become sexually aroused]. The reactions are instinctual. Porn is so powerful as a sexual stimulant that the physiological changes can happen automatically even when the viewer doesn’t like the idea of porn or feels uncomfortable with some of its content. In terms of triggering a sexual response, our eyes see no difference between sex on the screen and sex in real life. So as far as your sexual arousal system goes, when you are watching porn, you are there. . . .
    ‘Oh come on,’ you’re probably thinking. ‘How can porn be like a drug? I can’t smoke it, drink it, or shoot it up.’ But the fact is that porn can have as powerful an effect on your body and brain as cocaine, methamphetamine, alcohol, and other drugs. It actually changes your brain chemistry. Porn stimulates and area of the brain known as the ‘hedonic highway,’ or median forebrain, which is filled with receptors for the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is released when you get sexually aroused. It is also released by other pleasurable activities, such as kissing, intercourse, smoking a cigarette, or taking other drugs. Porn causes the dopamine production in your system to spike. This dramatic increase in dopamine produces a drug-like high some researchers believe is most similar to the high caused by crack cocaine.” (quoted from pages 18 and 19 of The Porn Trap, The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography, Wendy and Larry Maltz). Back To Article
  4. “As we mentioned earlier, watching porn stimulates the release of powerful chemicals, such as dopamine and testosterone. These chemicals not only relate to sexual arousal and pleasure, but also are released in real life when someone is sexually attracted to and falls in love with someone else. In addition, powerful human bonding hormones, such as oxytocin and vasopressin, are released with orgasm. They contribute to establishing a lasting emotional attachment with whomever, or whatever, you happen to be with or thinking about at the time. The more orgasms you have with porn, the more sexually and emotionally attached to it you’ll become.
    “A relationship with porn can act like an affair. It can take time and energy away from an existing intimate relationship. People who use porn often operate with the same kind of secrecy and deception as someone having a sexual affair. When a porn user is confronted by a partner, there is often denial, lying and attempts to cover up the wrongdoing. Without realizing it, maintaining a “love affair” with porn can become more important than staying connected to someone in real life. Also, if you use porn regularly, the mental images and scenarios of porn can keep playing in your mind during sex, making it hard to feel connected and intimate with the real person in your life. (The Porn Trap, The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography, Wendy and Larry Maltz, p. 23.) Back To Article
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