Religious Studies

Hinduism: 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.

Stastistics about 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.

Hindu attitudes towards drugs

Like other religions, Hinduism generally disapproves of the use of non-prescription drugs.

Cannabis plant

Cannabis plant

In the past, however, drugs played an important part in worship. In the Vedas [Vedas: Knowledge. Specifically refers to the four Vedas, though any teaching which is consistent with the conclusions of these scriptures is also accepted as Vedic. ] a drug called Soma was used as an offering and then drunk by the priests. The Vedic god Soma was the ‘master of plants’, the ‘healer of disease’ and also brought wealth.

In later Hinduism, Soma was identified with the moon which waxes and wanes when the drug is drunk by the gods.

Cannabis has been associated with the god Shiva who is said to have rested in the shade of a cannabis plant on a very hot day. Shiva gave the plant to humanity in thanks.

Some Hindu mystics still use cannabis as an aid to spiritual experience.

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