FAQ: What does the Bible say about using drugs and alcohol, other than for diseases and cooking?
In English translations, there is no verse of Scripture that clearly and specifically addresses the use of recreational or hallucinogenic drugs, but we will see that the Greek word pharmakeia does refer to this. There are, however, quite a few verses that speak to the wrong use of alcoholic beverages, which produces a similarly altered mental state. Let us look at a few of them to give us a framework to examine this topic.
Ephesians 5:18 (NKJ)
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation [the Greek word for “dissipation” means “an abandoned, dissolute life; profligacy; prodigality”].
Proverbs 23:21a (NKJ)
For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty.
1 Corinthians 5:11
But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
Why does God tell us not to get drunk? Because life is a spiritual battle, and we must be self-controlled and alert (1 Thess. 5:6). First, we need to be alert in order to serve God. God wants us constantly tuned into Him, and people have needs at very unexpected times. The servant of God is always “on call,” and must be ready and willing to serve. Second, our enemy, the Devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). Satan’s evil spirits usually infiltrate people through their minds, and Scripture is replete with instructions about properly managing our minds by controlling our thoughts and making them godly thoughts. For example:
1 Peter 1:13 (NKJ)
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober [self-controlled], and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will.
1 Thessalonians 5:6-8
(6) So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled [KJV=sober].
(7) For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.
(8) But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled [KJV=sober], putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.
Proverbs 23:7 (KJV) says that as one thinks, so he is. That is because thoughts are the seeds of our words and deeds. The way we “renew our minds,” and “be sober” is by choosing to think what the Word of God tells us to think. 2 Corinthians 10:5 calls this “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” That is how we steel our minds against our enemy, Satan, who is constantly bombarding us with stimuli designed to hijack our thoughts in an ungodly direction, cause us to act in an ungodly fashion, and eventually open our minds to evil spirit influence.
In Scripture, God uses the word “heart” to refer to the inner core of one’s being, the depths of the mind where either true faith or unbelief resides. He admonishes believers to guard our hearts so that we allow no evil influences to come in, because if they do get in, they may have devastating consequences.
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
When one is drunk, he is, in reality, out of his mind. He cannot guard his heart, and it is difficult or impossible for him to serve God or God’s people in an effective way. A person who is drunk is not effective in praying for, or ministering to, others. Furthermore, a drunk opens himself up to the possibility of evil spirits entering his mind and causing confusion or harm to himself or others.
The Bible puts using drugs in the same category as getting drunk (Gal. 5:19-21): both are forbidden by God because of what they do to the individual personally, and how they make him unfit to minister to others. However, before we go into the specific verses that mention drugs, we need to understand something about God’s Word. The Bible is written in such a way that people who are seeking God’s will are able to find it. It is impossible for God to write a book that covers every sin—we can sin in ways today that no one in the biblical world would have even conceived of, such as child pornography on the Internet. The Word of God is “instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16 KJV), general instruction that can be applied by wise people. LSD, crystal meth, crack, crank, etc., did not exist in biblical times, so God did not mention them in the Bible. What God does say, in many different ways, is that the Christian is a minister of God to His people, and should be alert and prepared to serve at all times, even if that is just being alone praying for people. Being drunk or high on drugs renders one incapable of being effective for God.
Drugs used to alter one’s mental state and thus “escape reality” do the same thing that excess alcohol does, that is, they render a person “out of control” of his mind. As with alcohol, the individual who is “high” on drugs is in no position to fulfill the command to “be alert and self-controlled.” Many drugs are hallucinogenic, and a hallucination is “a false notion, belief, or impression; illusion; or delusion.” In the Bible, the Greek word for “truth” means “reality.” Satan’s goal is to get people to act upon a false reality.
Scripture does indirectly address the illicit use of drugs, and connects it to drunkenness, as per the following verses, where the Greek word for “witchcraft” is pharmakeia, which includes “the use or the administering of drugs,” “poisoning [by drugs]” (Thayer’s Lexicon), and the variant, pharmakon, in Revelation 9:21 focuses upon “the use of certain potions or drugs” and the casting of spells (Louw Nida Greek Lexicon).This same root word is also translated as “sorcerer” and “sorceries” (see Rev. 9:21, 18:23, 21:8, 22:15). The translation “witchcraft” is used in most English versions because pharmakeia also referred to the witchcraft or sorcery in which drugs were used for potions, spells, etc. Understanding that pharmakeia is related to the use of drugs, notice how it appears, along with drunkenness, in the list of the “works of the flesh” in Galatians.
(19) The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;
(20) idolatry and witchcraft [pharmakeia]; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions
(21) 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.
Recreational and hallucinogenic drugs were not invented in Haight-Ashbury in the 1960s. They have been weapons in Satan’s arsenal for thousands of years, and they have contributed significantly to the destruction of millions of people’s lives, as both Scripture and history confirm.
There are other biblical truths that make it clear that the use of recreational and hallucinogenic drugs is harmful. We are to take care of our bodies so as to be able to serve God for many years, and drugs are physically debilitating. Also, we are to steward the financial resources that God gives us, and using our money to buy such drugs is hardly good stewardship. Beyond that, many drug users turn to crime to support their habit, and those crimes range from stealing from other addicts to murdering innocent people to get their “fix.” Thus, beyond the sin of the drunkenness or drug use itself are the sins of lying, stealing, and murder to which such a lifestyle leads. In short, using drugs robs us of “the life that is truly life.”
Many users say they are looking for peace, joy, and the “high” that such drugs give them. How sad. Anything someone categorizes as something good that a drug does for him is something only God, our heavenly Father, can give us through Jesus Christ. God designed us to enjoy life and be engaged in it, and the so-called benefits of drugs and alcohol are a counterfeit at best. Recreational drug use and getting drunk is selfish and dangerous, and addiction is not an escape from pain; it is pain in the worst way, as countless thousands of ex-addicts sadly testify. In contrast, an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus brings us all those things, and more. Thus we need not despair and grope for artificial means of altering our mental state. We will be so full of joy and peace that anything that alters it would be “a downer.”