Religious Studies

Christianity: drugs

Arguments about drugs are important because they can concern possible physical harm, or even the end of life, by human hands rather than by God’s will. Most religious teachings have something to say about using drugs.

Facts about drugs

All drugs are classed as either legal or illegal (illicit).

  • 'Illegal drugs' include heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, LSD and cannabis (these are divided into Class A, B or C depending on how addictive they are).
  • 'Recreational drugs' are drugs that people use for pleasure or relaxation. Most recreational drugs are illegal. However, alcohol and tobacco are legal recreational drugs. (Some religious people would include caffeine as a 'recreational' drug and would avoid its use.)
  • 'Prescription drugs' are those prescribed by a doctor to treat a medical condition, and are legal.

Statistics about drugs

Illegal drugs

Illegal drugs

According to National Health Service (NHS) reports (2007):

  • In 2005/06, 10.5% of adults aged 16 to 59 living in England and Wales had used one or more illicit (illegal) drug in the last year, a decrease from 12.1% in 1998.
  • 6.3% had used an illicit (illegal) drug in the last month, a fall from 7.1% in 1998.
  • The use of any Class A drug (like heroin) in the last year has increased, from 2.7% in 1998 to 3.4% in 2005/06, mainly due to a rise in the use of cocaine powder.
  • Men are more likely to take illicit (illegal) drugs than women: 13.7% of men compared with 7.4% of women took illegal drugs in the last year.
  • For Class A drugs, the highest levels were found among those living in London.
  • For younger adults aged 16 to 24, drug use in the last year fell between 1998 and 2005/06, from 31.8% to 25.2%, whilst the use of Class A drug use has remained stable.

Christian attitudes towards drugs

The key Christian teaching in relation to the use of drugs is that the physical body is the natural home of the soul, and is therefore precious and sacred.

Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 6:19

So Christians do not approve of the taking of illegal drugs, including most recreational drugs [Recreational drugs. : Drugs used for pleasure or relaxation. Most recreational drugs are illegal. ], especially those which can alter the mind and make people incapable of praying or being alert to God.

  • Christians will take prescription drugs [Prescription drugs: Those prescribed by a doctor to treat a medical condition. ] when appropriate.
  • Alcohol, tobacco and caffeine are examples of recreational drugs which are not forbidden to Christians.

The Roman Catholic church says:

The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offence. Clandestine production of and trafficking in drugs are scandalous practices. They constitute direct co-operation in evil, since they encourage people to practices gravely contrary to the moral law.

Alcohol and tobacco

Alcohol is permitted by most Christians and, of course, is normally used for the celebration of the Eucharist:

after supper he took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.

1 Corinthians 11:24

The Salvation Army and the Methodist Church have always been opposed to the use of alcohol because of the bad effects it can have on people’s behaviour and lifestyle. For this reason some Christians do not permit the use of alcohol at the Eucharist and instead use unfermented grape juice.

Tobacco is not condemned by the churches but many Christians are concerned about the effect which it can have on people’s health, and many Christians would make a positive decision not to smoke.

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