Speaking Sound Doctrine


VII.   Drinking And Drug Abuse

We are going to consider drinking and drug abuse together because that is where they belong.  Ethanol (ethyl alcohol) is in fact a drug and one most widely abused drug in this country.  Most people do not look at drinking the same way they look at the use of illegal drugs.  The truth is that they should.  That which can be said about the abuse of alcohol can also be said about the abuse of any drug.

A.       Abuse

What is abuse?  This English word is a compound of the prefix "ab-," meaning from, off, or away, and the root word: use or utilize.  It is therefore an off-use, a misuse, a use away from what ought to be.  Webster states, "To put to a wrong or improper use."  So let's clarify what we are and are not talking about.  Most drugs have some rightful, therapeutic use.  Doctors prescribe these, or they can be easily purchased at stores.  Their intended use is to improve the quality of life or treat ailments.  Such proper use of substances is mentioned in scripture:

Luke 7:46  "You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil."

Luke 10:34  And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

1 Timothy 5:23  Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.

James 5:14  Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

We are not talking about the proper use of things; we are talking about improper use.  In a different subject matter, the misuse of a thing is mentioned in scripture:

KJV 1 Corinthians 9:18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

So, how are substances used wrong today?

1.           Wrong amount or dose

A doctor may prescribe or we may otherwise rightfully purchase some drug.  All drugs have a recommended dosage for proper use.  If we use the substances for longer periods or in higher amounts, we are abusing, as is often done when a doctor prescribes a drug to help someone with a sleeping problem.

2.           Wrong user

If we take medications that a doctor prescribed for someone else's problem, we are abusing.

3.           Wrong substance

Some drugs are by-products of research.  Drugs are not invented as much as they are discovered.  New compounds are formulated and tested on animals and human subjects.  Some are found to have harmful or unpredictable effects, which a doctor would never prescribe.  Such drugs have no known legitimate purpose.  These substances enter illegal markets for no other use than abuse.  Examples are the drugs ecstasy and crack cocaine.

4.           Wrong use

Some substances are not drugs at all but are nevertheless capable of producing effects similar to drugs.  They have other legitimate uses that have nothing to do with medicines or medical research.  Examples are sniffing glue and paint.

5.           Wrong purpose

In many cases, a substance is used simply for recreation or personal enjoyment.  We then have to determine the legitimacy of the very use itself.  As a Christian, God's word is our standard for making this determination.  For example, skin conditioner is used for its soothing effect, and the Bible makes no indication that this is sinful.  On the other hand, alcoholic beverages are also used for a soothing effect: the purpose of intoxication.  There's nothing wrong with recreation or personal enjoyment, but the Bible has plenty to say about the sinfulness of intoxication.  This also is abuse, and our study will look at this in greater detail.

B.       A Clinical View of Drug Abuse

1.           Classifications

All drugs are used to influence the mind and body in an attempt to alter the emotions, change the senses, essentially fool the body, and escape reality.  There are three basic classifications of drugs that are abused:


This group of drugs includes "psychedelics."  Researchers do not fully understand how they work in the nervous system, but Webster's dictionary states they are used to "affect with visions or imaginary perceptions…perception of objects with no reality usually arising from disorder of the nervous system."  Marijuana is in this category.


This group includes drugs called "amphetamines."  They work to increase the rate of signals transmitted in the nervous system.  They thus cause a heightened awareness or sensitivity with an increased heart rate.  Caffeine and nicotine are in this category.


This group includes drugs called "barbiturates."  They work to chemically block signals between nerve cells.  They thus cause sluggishness and sleepiness.  Alcohol is in this category.

All of these drugs have varying capabilities of addicting us or causing bodily harm, if abused.  Our studies in morality show that to glorify God in our bodies, which are temples of God bought by the blood of Christ, we should not intentionally do ourselves harm.  Furthermore, our studies show that addiction is a lack of self-control, which is sin.

Out of all, caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine are the most abused drugs today.  Nicotine abuse in cigarette smoking is so prevalent, harmful, and cruelly addictive that a separate study is devoted to it.  For now, let's take closer consideration of caffeine and alcohol abuse.

2.           Caffeine

Caffeine is a naturally occurring compound in plants, especially cocoa nuts, coffee beans, and tea leaves.  It therefore shows up in a broad range of our food products.  It blocks the chemical receptors in nerves that naturally produce sleepiness.  This blockage fools the body into thinking it needs to produce more adrenaline, a hormone that naturally kicks up our energy level when we are frightened.  The effect of caffeine on the body has considerable variation from person to person; some are more susceptible to its effects than others.

It also chemically works similarly to heroin and cocaine, which probably gives it the ability to addict but to a very much milder degree.  This is probably why some beverage companies intentionally add caffeine to their product to get customers to keep buying it.

Caffeine can kill in a large dose equivalent to drinking 80 to 100 cups of coffee in rapid succession: not an easy feat.  The greatest practical long-term health problem associated with caffeine abuse is sleep deprivation, which can lead to irritability.  Once addicted, attempts to break the addiction can lead to fatigue, depression, and headaches.  Being a stimulant, caffeine does not produce debilitating effects.  No automobile accident ever resulted from too much caffeine consumption.  Homes have never been wrecked as a result of caffeine abuse.

Caffeine use is nowhere explicitly mentioned in scripture, but then, again, neither is smoking.  However, we have seen that scripture does condemn addiction of any kind.  If we are addicted to caffeine, to us, it is sin.  Some researchers today suggest that if a person is drinking four or more cups of coffee in a day, they probably have a dependency problem.

3.           Alcohol

Statistics help us understand the magnitude of the problems of alcohol abuse.  In the United States today there are at least 80 million people who use alcoholic beverages and the number seems to increase all the time.  Of that number it is conservatively estimated that 7 million are what could be called "problem drinkers" and out of those at least 3 million are alcoholics.

You might ask "What does that have to do with young people?"  Probably most of the problem drinkers or alcoholics that you have seen are adults.  However, a recent survey among college students helps us to see why we would talk about these sins to young people.  Of college students who drink, 4 out of 5 men and 2 out of 3 women began to drink while they were in high school.  Even if statistics didn't bear it out, experience would teach that people generally begin to drink when they are young – about high school age.

Dr. T. Mark Lloyd, of Gainesville, Florida, wrote, "Alcohol is a drug which has both immediate (acute) effects and more longer lasting (chronic) effects.  Usually it is the immediate effects that the drinker is seeking.  The first organ system that shows a rapid effect from alcohol is the brain.  The brain is quite compartmentalized and there are certain areas that perform different functions.  The frontal portion of our brain called the frontal lobe (that part of the brain which anatomically and neurologically separates man from other animals) controls our inhibitions among other things.  It so happens that this is the portion of the brain quickly affected by alcohol.  This is why we see a person becoming 'happier', louder and more boisterous.  He begins to do things he would not normally do.  (By the way, this is not the point at which a person is as yet defined by all criteria as being drunk.)  This is also why it is so very dangerous for the young and others who otherwise under normal conditions have proper sexual inhibitions, but may lose these inhibitions while drinking, thus engaging in sexual activities they would not normally do.  Now we can begin to see why people like alcohol and it's immediate effects.  Other acute effects are visual disturbances, loss of balance, and loss of motor coordination.  If questioned closely, law enforcement officials will tell you anywhere from 50 to 90  percent of all automobile accidents are a direct or indirect result of someone being under the influence of alcohol.  Not necessarily drunk either, but just drinking and not in total control of all faculties or not totally aware of circumstances."

Dr. Lloyd continues, "The ill effects of alcohol also have their longer lasting results.  The most common problem is that of cirrhosis or loss of liver function.  The liver is the organ in the body that detoxifies alcohol.  If taken in abundance and for a long period of time, the liver can and will be destroyed by this drug.  This type of individual is not a very pretty sight to see.  Usually at this stage he also has chronic brain damage which is the direct result of the alcohol as well.  The gastrointestinal tract is the next most common organ that is affected by alcohol.  Disasters such as ulcers, stomach inflammation, and severe bleeding from the esophagus or stomach can occur as a result of alcoholic consumption.  The heart can most definitely become adversely involved from it's chronic use.  Secondarily, the pancreas, muscles, skin, and a number of other organs are also involved destructively."

With much drinking, brain cells are destroyed.  Alcohol causes agglutination, or thickening of the blood, and can lead to blockage of the blood flow through some of the brain cells.  Starved of oxygen for as little as three minutes, the affected cells will die and the damage is permanent.  They will not revive themselves or grow back.

C.       What does the Bible Say of the Effects of Alcohol Abuse?

1.           Harmful – Physically

Proverbs 23:29-34

·          Woe, sorrow, contentions, wounds

·          Stomach ailments

·          Hallucinations, redness of eyes

·          Silly talking, impaired speech

·          Disorientation, confusion, and dizziness

·          Lack of sensibility

·          Addiction

2.           Harmful – In Happiness and Prosperity

Proverbs 21:17; 23:21

·          Poverty is his.

·          He shall be a poor man; he shall not be rich.

3.           Harmful – Mentally

Proverbs 31:4, 5

·          Forgetfulness

·          Adversely affects judgment

4.           What Can Be Lost?

·          Noah lost his decency (Genesis 9:20-29).

·          Lot's daughters lost their virginity (Genesis 19:30-36).

·          David lost his integrity in the case of Uriah (2 Samuel 11:13).

·          Belshazzar lost his kingdom (Daniel 5).

·          Ahasuerus lost his wife and his self-respect. (Esther 1:10-21).

·          We can lose our influence (Titus 2:7, 8).

·          If we engage in this kind of activity, we will lose our souls (1 Corinthians 6:10).

D.       The Bible Condemns Drinking

Consider carefully these two passages:

NKJ Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

NKJ 1 Peter 4:3 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles -- when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.

Lets take a look at the words underlined above in the original Greek text:

·          Sorcery [PHARMAKEIA] (from whence the English word "pharmacy" is derived) –  J. H. Thayer defines this as (1) the use or the administering of drugs (2) poisoning (3) sorcery, magical arts, often found in connection with idolatry and fostered by it, and (4) metaphorically, the deceptions and seductions of idolatry. 

·          Drunkenness (Galatians 5) [METHE] (from whence, the English "methanol," a type of alcohol) –  This is defined as drunkenness, habitual intoxication, deep drinking, drunken bouts.

·          Drunkenness (1 Peter 4) [OINOPHLUGIA] –  Thayer simply defines it as drunkenness.  The King James Version accurately renders it "excess of wine," indicating habitual intoxication.  It marks a step in advance of the drunkenness (METHE) mentioned in Galatians 5.

·          Revelries [KOMOS] –  J. H. Thayer defines this as "(1) a revel, carousal (1a) a nocturnal and riotous procession of half drunken and frolicsome fellows who after supper parade through the streets with torches and music in honour of Bacchus or some other deity, and sing and play before houses of male and female friends; hence used generally of feasts and drinking parties that are protracted till late at night and indulge in revelry."

·          Drinking parties [POTOS] – The NKJ Version renders this as "banquetings."  Be careful not to read this as "drunken parties;" that would be KOMOS.  Literally, POTOS is a "drinking" without reference to amount.  The verb form is POTIZO, "to give to drink" without regard to amount.  R.C. Trench says, "not of necessity excessive."  He further explains that POTOS is related to words of excess in that it gives "opportunity for excess".  This is cocktail party drinking, sipping of wine, and social drinking.  This includes consumption of such a small amount that no alteration in behavior or senses could be detected.

There is a progressiveness evident in these words.  They describe every aspect of drinking today from just casually tasting wine, to drinking for the purpose of merrymaking, to getting the beer-buzz, to being completely drunk, and to being passed out in your own vomit. Scripture condemns them all.

The Bible is full of references to drunkenness too numerous to begin to mention.  We will suffice to say that it is never cast in a favorable light by the inspired writers and is often associated with harlotry, idolatry, indecency, shamefulness, sorrow, and destruction.

Any substance that would behave like alcohol to similarly lower inhibitions, dull the senses, alter our perceptions, harm the body, or addict us is also condemned in scripture on a matter of principle.

We shouldn't need to mention that underage drinking and the use of illegal substances is sin because it also violates civil law, to which a Christian is to be in subjection.

Romans 13:1-6

God does not make any meaningless or arbitrary prohibitions; all are for the good of His creation.

E.        Why do Young People Drink or Abuse Drugs?

1.           Curiosity

A lot of young folks drink and abuse drugs because they want to see what it is like.

2.           To be Accepted

This is peer pressure.  Maybe the greatest number of young people drink or use drugs because they want to be accepted.  Everybody wants to be liked.  It is rare to find a young person who first drinks or first takes drugs alone.  Generally speaking, these are things that are, at least initially, done with others.

Concerning peer pressure, we all need to realize that young people are under a lot of pressure.  Adults may easily think a teenager has nothing to feel pressure about.  They don't have to pay the bills or go to work everyday or be responsible for the needs of their families.  The truth is, young people do feel pressure.  They are in a period of physical and emotional change with worries about their appearance, doubts about their future, concerns about school work, uncertainties in the church, or confusion about expectations, and they don't have the experience or maturity to always deal with them properly.  Young people need to know that others understand and are here to help.  Drugs abuse is certainly not the answer.

3.           Unhappiness

Maybe you just don't like the way things are.  You don't like it at home – mom and dad just don't understand.  You don't like it at school, maybe you don't see the point of it.  You don't like it at church, maybe you feel like you don't have any real friends.  Some young people are deceived into thinking that drinking or drugs can ease that unhappiness for a little while.

4.           Influences of Society

We shouldn't jump to blame our environment, but it is a contributing factor.  Think about what television and advertisements teach us.  Young people don't always understood that TV commercials are designed by people who will say just about anything to get you to buy their product.  Consequently, what do we hear?  If you are fat, take a pill; if you can't sleep, take a pill; if your stomach is upset, take a pill; if you're constipated, take a pill; if you want stronger fingernails, take a pill; if you have a headache, take a pill, and on and on.  We are taught that if anything at all is bothering you – take a pill.

The music we choose to listen to has an influence on us.  In the 1960's, the drug culture began, and to deny that is was influenced by music is to be like the ostrich with it's head in the sand.  Lots of music today still promotes drug abuse and escaping from reality.

You can probably come up with a hundred other reasons why young people turn to alcohol or other drugs.  Please understand, it just makes sense not to drink or to abuse drugs.  It will take away your health, your happiness, your mind, and most importantly, your soul.

F.        Excuses to Justify Recreational Drinking and Drug Abuse

1.           "The Bible only condemns drunkenness."

This is always stated by a person who hasn't actually studied the matter.  We've shown this to be false.

2.           "Titus 3:18 actually says deacons can have a little wine."

"Not addicted to much wine" does not imply that a little is okay.  You cannot be addicted to a little, anyway.

3.           "Jesus made wine (John 2:1-11)."

The New Testament Greek word for "wine" [OINOS] is used both for grape juice that does contain alcohol and juice that does not.  You have to determine from the context whether or not it is alcoholic.  There is nothing in this context that would remotely suggest that Jesus must have made intoxicating wine at this feast.

In English, we use the word "drunk" to mean both the past tense of drink and intoxicated.  However, in the Greek, there are different words.  The word PINO means simply to consume liquid; the word METHUO means to be intoxicated.  John 2 does not state that the wedding guests became drunk (METHUO) on the wine Jesus produced.

4.           "Paul told Timothy to drink wine (1 Tim 5:23)."

Modern clinical studies show that regulated, daily consumption of a small amount of wine containing alcohol can have some health benefits.  However, studies also show that pure grape juice also contains chemicals that benefit the body.  Therefore, we need to recognize that Paul only may or may not be recommending alcoholic wine, specifically.  However, it seems strange that Paul would feel the need to encourage taking grape juice, and only a little, if grape juice is already commonly used and is harmless in larger quantities.  Therefore, if Timothy is thinking that alcohol ought not be taken even medicinally by a Christian, Paul could be clarifying that alcoholic wine, like many other drugs, has a proper use, yet it is not to be abused, as by large quantities.  So even if intoxicating wine is the subject, we have established from the start that drug abuse, not legitimate use, is what the Bible condemns.

We stated earlier that drinking even in small quantities is sinful, but we observe now that a small quantity is lawful.  The difference lies in the purpose.  The legitimate use is for medicinal purposes; the abuse is for the mere purpose of being sociable.  The mature Christian must be very careful about his influence.  Paul warns us about misusing our liberties (1 Cor 8:8-13).  A social gathering is not the time or place for a Christian to "take his medicine."  Others who see him drinking might assume he is simply taking part in the merry-making.  Even if his consumption is the slightest sip, they could by his actions be tempted into excessiveness, and he would thereby take a part in their guilt.  Paul's instruction to Timothy in no way condones social, recreational, or celebratory drinking.

5.           "Marijuana is not addictive."

This may be true, but marijuana obviously impairs sensibility.  Clinical studies also clearly show that continued use can cause bodily harm.  These reasons alone violate scriptural principles.

6.           "Marijuana does not actually 'lead to doing other drugs;' that is a myth."

The point is not that marijuana itself leads to other things but the general interest in using drugs of any kind.  If I have associated myself with someone who will illegally sell me marijuana or smoke it with me, I am in the wrong crowd.  They will not have a good influence on me.

G.       Thoughts And Questions For Discussion

1.       If it takes four beers to "get drunk," how drunk are you if only one beer is consumed?


2.       Do any of the word studies in this lesson deal with being only partially drunk?


3.       If drunkenness is engaged only in the privacy of my own home, how might that have a bad effect on others not in my household?


4.       Would you see any danger in drinking non-alcoholic beer out with your friends?


5.       How can drunkenness adversely effect a marriage relationship?


6.       Can you think of ways television and movies have glamorized drinking?


7.       Are there certain situations where drinking just a little alcohol would be okay?


8.       What is missing in the popular "drink responsibly" promotion heard today?


9.       For older young adults, when someone asks you why you're not drinking, what do you tell them?



Copyright 2009, Speaking Sound Doctrine