Based on and taken from the book: Questions Young People Ask Answers that Work (Volume 1, Section 8 chapter 34 pages 272-282) published by Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. www.watchtower.org
“I AM an emotional child,” says Mike, a young man 24 years old. “At times I’m afraid and even intimidated by others my own age. I suffer from depression, insecurity, and at times I’ve even considered suicide.”
Ann, 36 years old, describes herself as “emotionally very young,” having “low self-esteem.” She adds: “I find it very difficult to live a normal life.” Mike and Ann are reaping the consequences of a decision they made when they were quite young, that is, to experiment with drugs. Millions of youths today are doing likewise—injecting, swallowing, sniffing, and smoking everything from cocaine to marijuana. For some youths, ‘doing drugs’ is a way to escape problems. Others get involved to satisfy their curiosity. Yet others use drugs to ease depression or boredom. And once started, many continue using drugs for the sheer pleasure of it. Says 17-year-old Grant: “I smoke [marijuana] only for its effects. Not to be cool or for social reasons. . . . I never smoked because of peer pressure, but just because I wanted to.”
At any rate, the chances are good that sooner or later you will be exposed to or directly offered drugs. “Even the guards at our school are selling pot [marijuana],” says one youth. Drug paraphernalia is openly displayed and sold. In spite of their popularity, though, there is good reason for you to say no to drugs. How so? Drugs Hinder Growth
Consider youths who use drugs to escape problems, like Mike and Ann. As was shown in our previous chapter, emotional growth comes from facing life’s challenges, handling success, surviving failure. Youths who rely on a chemical refuge from problems hinder their emotional development. They fail to develop the skills needed for coping with problems. As with any other skill, the ability to cope requires practice. To illustrate: Have you ever watched a skilled soccer player? He is able to use his head and feet in ways that are nothing short of amazing! Yet, how did this player develop such skill? By years of practice. He learned to kick the ball, run with it, feint, and so on, until he became proficient at the game.
Developing coping skills is very similar. It takes practice—experience! Yet, at Proverbs 1:22 the Bible asks: “How long will you inexperienced ones keep loving inexperience, . . . and how long will you stupid ones keep hating knowledge?” The youth that hides behind a drug-induced euphoria ‘loves inexperience’; he fails to develop the knowledge and coping skills needed to deal with life. As the book Talking With Your Teenager says of teenage drug users: “The lesson that life’s painful moments can be survived without these substances never gets learned.”
Ann, who used drugs as an escape, thus confesses: “For 14 years I haven’t dealt with my problems.” Mike expressed a similar thought, saying: “I had used drugs since I was 11 years old. When I stopped at the age of 22, I felt like a child. I latched onto others, trying to find security. I came to realize that my emotional development stopped when I started using drugs.”
“I wasted all those years of development,” adds Frank, who abused drugs from age 13. “When I stopped, I came to the painful realization that I was totally unprepared to deal with life. I was a 13-year-old all over again with the same emotional turmoil that faces any other adolescent.” Can Drugs Ruin My Health?
This is another area of concern. Most youths realize that the so-called hard drugs can kill you. But what about so-called soft drugs, such as marijuana? Are all the warnings you hear about them mere scare tactics? In answer, let us focus on the drug marijuana.
Marijuana (also known as pot, reefer, grass, ganja, or weed) has been the focus of much controversy among experts. And admittedly, much is unknown regarding this popular drug. For one thing, marijuana is extremely complex; a marijuana cigarette contains over 400 chemical compounds in its smoke. It took doctors over 60 years to realize cigarette smoke causes cancer. It may likewise take decades before anyone knows for sure just what marijuana’s 400 compounds do to the human body.
Nevertheless, after studying thousands of research papers, a panel of experts of the prestigious U.S. Institute of Medicine concluded: “The scientific evidence published to date indicates that marijuana has a broad range of psychological and biological effects, some of which, at least under certain conditions, are harmful to human health.” What are some of these harmful effects?
Marijuana—What It Does to Your Body
Consider, for example, the lungs. Even marijuana’s staunchest supporters admit that inhaling smoke cannot possibly be good for you. Marijuana smoke, like the smoke from tobacco, consists of a number of toxic substances, such as tars.
Dr. Forest S. Tennant, Jr., surveyed 492 U.S. Army soldiers who had used marijuana. Nearly 25 percent of them “suffered sore throats from smoking cannabis, and some 6 percent reported that they had suffered from bronchitis.” In another study, 24 out of 30 marijuana users were found to have bronchial “lesions characteristic of the early stages of cancer.” True, no one can guarantee that such ones will actually develop cancer later on. But would you want to run that risk? Besides, the Bible says that God “gives to all persons life and breath.” (Acts 17:25) Would you be showing respect for the Giver of life if you deliberately inhaled something that damages the lungs and the throat?
At Ecclesiastes 12:6 the human brain is poetically called “the golden bowl.” Barely larger than your fist and weighing a scant three pounds, [1.4 kg] the brain is not only the precious receptacle of your memories but also the command center for your entire nervous system. With that in mind, note the warning of the Institute of Medicine: “We can say with confidence that marijuana produces acute effects on the brain, including chemical and electrophysiological changes.” At present, there is no conclusive proof that marijuana permanently damages the brain. Nevertheless, the possibility that marijuana might in any way do harm to “the golden bowl” should not be dismissed lightly.
And what about the prospect of your one day getting married and having children? The Institute of Medicine reported that marijuana is known “to cause birth defects when administered in large doses to experimental animals.” Whether it has the same effects on humans is thus far unproved. Remember, though, that birth defects (such as the one caused by the hormone DES) often take years to manifest themselves. So, what the future holds for the children—and grandchildren—of marijuana smokers remains to be seen. Dr. Gabriel Nahas says that smoking marijuana may be “genetic roulette.” Could anyone who views children as “an inheritance from Jehovah” take such risks?—Psalm 127:3.
Drugs—The Bible’s View
Of course, marijuana is just one of many popular drugs. But it well illustrates that there is ample reason to avoid taking any mind-altering substances for pleasure. Says the Bible: “The beauty of young men is their power.” (Proverbs 20:29) As a young person, you no doubt enjoy good health. Why even risk throwing it away? More important, though, we have the Bible’s view on this matter. It tells us to “safeguard . . . thinking ability,” not to ruin it through chemical abuse. (Proverbs 3:21) It further exhorts: “Let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in God’s fear.” Really, it is only to those who have ‘cleansed themselves of defilement,’ avoiding practices like drug abuse, that God promises: “‘I will take you in.’ ‘And I shall be a father to you.’”—2 Corinthians 6:17–7:1. Nevertheless, turning down drugs may not be easy.
Peers and Their Pressure
One cool summer evening Joe and Frank, cousins and close friends, made a pact. “No matter what anyone else does,” suggested Joe, the younger of the two, “let’s never fool around with drugs.” The two youths shook hands on the deal. Just five years later, Joe was found dead in his car as a result of a drug-related accident. And Frank was severely addicted to drugs. What went wrong? The answer lies in this urgent warning found in the Bible: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) Joe and Frank both got in with the wrong crowd. As they associated more and more with those who used drugs, they began experimenting with drugs themselves.
The book Self-Destructive Behavior in Children and Adolescents observes: “The youthful are most often introduced or ‘turned on’ to the various drugs by a close friend . . . [His] intentions may be to share an exciting or pleasurable experience.” Mike, mentioned at the outset, confirms this, saying: “Peer pressure to me was one of the hardest things to deal with. . . . The first time I smoked marijuana, I did it because all the kids I was with did it, and I wanted to fit in.”
To put it bluntly, if your friends start using drugs, you will be under strong emotional pressure to conform, to fit in. If you do not change your circle of friends, in all likelihood you will eventually become a drug user too.
“Walking With Wise Persons”
“He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly,” says Proverbs 13:20. To illustrate the point, if you were trying to avoid catching a cold, would you not avoid close contact with infected people? “In a similar way,” states the book Adolescent Peer Pressure, “if we are to prevent . . . drug abuse . . . , we need to maintain healthy balanced conditions and reduce exposure to harmful influences.”
So do you want to say no to drugs? Then watch whom you associate with. Seek out the friendship of God-fearing Christians who will support your resolve to stay free of drugs. (Compare 1 Samuel 23:15, 16.) Note, too, the words at Exodus 23:2. Although originally directed to witnesses giving sworn testimony, they are good advice for youths: “You must not follow after the crowd for evil ends.”
Someone who unquestioningly follows his peers is nothing more than a slave. Says the Bible at Romans 6:16 (New International Version): “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey?” That is why the Bible encourages youths to develop “thinking ability.” (Proverbs 2:10-12) Learn to think for yourself, and you’ll not be inclined to follow wayward youths.
True, you may be curious about drugs and their effects. But you need not pollute your own mind and body to know what drugs do to people. Just observe drug abusers your age—especially those who have been abusers over a long period of time. Do they seem alert and sharp? Have they kept up their grades? Or are they dull and inattentive, at times even unaware of what is going on around them? A term was coined by drug users themselves to describe such ones: “burn-outs.” Yet, many “burn-outs” likely started using drugs out of curiosity. No wonder, then, that the Bible urges Christians to suppress unhealthy curiosity and to “be babes as to badness.”—1 Corinthians 14:20. You Can Say No!
A booklet published by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse reminds us: “Turning down the chance to use a drug . . . is your right. Any friends who lean on you about your decision are chipping away at your rights as a free individual.” What can you do if someone offers you drugs? Have the courage to say no! This does not necessarily mean giving a sermon on the evils of drug abuse. The same booklet suggested simply replying, “No thanks, I don’t want to smoke” or, “Nope, don’t want the hassle” or even quipping, “I’m not into body pollution.” If they persist in their offer, you might have to say no, with conviction! Letting others know that you are a Christian may also prove to be a protection.
Growing up is not easy. But if you try to avoid growing pains by using drugs, you can seriously hinder your chances of becoming a responsible, mature adult. Learn to face problems head-on. If the pressures seem overwhelming, do not seek a chemical escape. Talk things over with a parent or other responsible adults who can help you to sort things out. Remember, too, the Bible’s exhortation: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers.”—Philippians 4:6, 7.
Yes, Jehovah God will give you the strength to say no! Never let others pressure you to weaken in your resolve. As Mike urges: “Don’t experiment with drugs. You’ll suffer the rest of your life!”
Marijuana—A New Wonder Drug?
There has been much ado over claims that marijuana may have therapeutic value in treating glaucoma and asthma and in easing the nausea that cancer patients experience during chemotherapy. A U.S. Institute of Medicine report acknowledges that there is some truth to these claims. But does this mean that in the near future doctors will be prescribing marijuana cigarettes?
Not likely, for while some of marijuana’s over 400 chemical compounds may prove useful, smoking marijuana would hardly be the logical way to take such medicines. “Using marijuana,” says noted authority Dr. Carlton Turner, “would be like giving people molded bread to eat to get penicillin.” So if any marijuana compounds ever become bona fide medicines, it will be marijuana “derivatives or analogues,” chemical compounds similar to them, that doctors will prescribe. No wonder, then, that the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services wrote: “It should be emphasized that possible therapeutic benefits in no way modify the significance of the negative health effects of marijuana.”
Have the courage to say no to drugs!
Questions for Discussion
□ Why do so many youths become involved with drugs? □ How can taking drugs hinder your emotional growth? □ What is known about how marijuana affects the body? □ What is the Bible’s view of taking drugs for pleasure? □ Why is watching your associations vital to remaining free from drugs? □ What are some ways of saying no to drugs?