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What Does the Bible Say About Drugs?

Many 12-step programs and other recovery support groups have established their foundation in scriptures from the Bible. For those in recovery, these teachings can be a powerful motivation for a life of sobriety.
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The Bible has a lot to say about intoxication, sobriety and intentionally harming the body. But it doesn’t directly address the disease of addiction because the word addiction wasn’t used when the Bible was written.

Some newer translations of the Bible use the word addicted, but the accuracy of different translations is unknown. This article uses the New International Version of the Bible.

The concepts of addiction and dependence only developed in the 20th century, according to a 2007 article published in the journal Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience.

Numerous Scriptures can be interpreted to imply that addiction is a sin, but meanings of Scriptures are debatable. In the first book of Corinthians, we’re warned that temptations can overpower us, but we are given the resources to overcome those temptations.

1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it

Substance abuse may be one of the temptations that the verse refers to. Alcohol and drug use are relatively common today. Addiction may be considered a temptation. It’s difficult for many to bear. But God provides a way out. Rehab and addiction treatment can help individuals overcome the disease, and many people believe spirituality is a key component of recovery.

Other Scriptures are more direct.

Proverbs 20:1
“Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.”
Ephesians 5:18
“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”
Titus 2:3
“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.”

The verses don’t directly say drinking alcohol is a sin. But they can be interpreted to mean that God doesn’t want us to be led astray by mind-altering substances.

The Bible’s references to drug abuse, intoxication and addiction require thought and reflection. They can be interpreted in different ways. The meanings of the verses can be difficult to understand, but the overall message from the Bible is usually clear.

What the Bible Says About Drunkenness and Drunkards

Alcohol was one of the most abused drugs during the time period during which the Bible was written. It’s possible that references to drunkenness refer to alcohol addiction.

Dozens of Bible verses refer to drunkards and drunkenness.

Romans 13:13
“Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.”
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Galatians 5:19-21
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

These verses can be interpreted to mean that being addicted to alcohol is a sin, but the sin is forgiven if you recover from alcoholism. The verses can also be interpreted to mean being drunk is a sin, and if you stop sinning (i.e., stop getting drunk), God will forgive you.

What the Bible Says About Intoxication, Inebriation

Most people interpret the Bible’s condemnation of alcohol abuse as a condemnation against all forms of substance abuse. If the term drunkenness is interpreted as a general state of intoxication to any drug, then the Bible clearly admonishes drug use.

The Bible may not be straightforward about drug use, but it is clear about staying sober.

1 Thessalonians 5:6-8
“So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”
1 Peter 1:13
“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.”
1 Peter 5:8
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

The Bible wants us to be sober because being intoxicated makes us more likely to sin. Decades of research proves that alcohol and other drugs lower self-control and contribute to increased rates of violence and other unsafe behaviors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many of those behaviors are sins. And the Bible tells us to avoid things that tempt us to sin.

Proverbs 22:3
“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”
Matthew 18:8-9
“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”

The verses warn us against making choices that lead to sin. Addiction is generally accepted as a disease, which means drug use isn’t a choice for people who are addicted. But the choice to try alcohol or another drug for the first time may be considered a sin.

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What the Bible Says About Harming the Body

The health effects of illicit drugs are well-known. One can argue that the long-term health effects of drinking or using drugs once are negligible. But the meanings of Scriptures that warn against harming body are clear. We should avoid doing anything that can harm the body.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17
“Do you not know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.”
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples 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 bodies.”

Both verses tell us to make healthy choices. Anyone who misuses alcohol or other drugs is harming the body. Because most experts believe that people with addictions aren’t capable of choosing to stop — they require treatment to recover — it’s unclear whether addiction is a sin.

Numerous Scriptures refer to drunkenness, sobriety and making healthy decisions. The interpretations of each verse are up for debate. But the overall message seems to be clear. God doesn’t want us to misuse alcohol or other drugs because they distort our thinking.

If we’re unable to think clearly, we’re unable to grow closer to God. One biblical message is clear. God should be the top priority in our lives, and nothing should stop us from being with him.

Author
Chris Elkins, MA
Senior Content Writer, DrugRehab.com
Chris Elkins worked as a journalist for three years and was published by multiple newspapers and online publications. Since 2015, he’s written about health-related topics, interviewed addiction experts and authored stories of recovery. Chris has a master’s degree in strategic communication and a graduate certificate in health communication.
@ChrisTheCritic9

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