Category — Addictions
In recent years there has been a great increase in the taking of drugs by young people in this country, and even by children. The taking by the young of marihuana, amphetamines, barbiturates, LSD, and the derivatives of opium, especially heroin, has become a serious problem for the whole country, and especially for parents. There is nothing new about the abuse of drugs Arguments about the use and abuse of Cannabis, the hemp plant from which marihuana is obtained, were recorded in China over 4,600 years ago. The abuse of other drugs is also very old, as for example the abuse of alcohol related in the Word in the story of Noah. What is new is the turning of so many of the young people in this country to such abuses. The problem has become one that everyone has to consider in some form or another, and it is therefore useful to review the principles which should guide the thoughts and feelings of those of the Church with regard to it.
Most drugs have some definite use. For the most part these are medical uses, for the cure or prevention of diseases, for the relief of physical pains and mental tensions. Some have a use as mild stimulants, such as tea and coffee. Wine, which contains alcohol, has the highest symbolic use in the Holy Supper, Wine and other alcoholic liquors are used also socially, and as foods, and as means of relaxation. As to the real use of drugs, it would be better that a man be guided by his physician as to the use of any of them.
The main reason why people take drugs, apart from their proper use, is because they produce euphoria. Euphoria is “A feeling of well-being, of elation, especially one that is groundless, disproportionate to its cause, or inappropriate to one’s life situation.” (Webster.) It is thus a feeling of well-being artificially brought about. Some drugs are such that there is a physical dependency on them. With others there is a psychological dependency, and with some, both. Some are more harmful than others to the body and mind of man. In some cases, the harm done to the body or mind or both is beyond dispute. In other cases, the harm done has not yet been scientifically determined Because of the recent upsurge in the taking of drugs by the young, much research has recently been instituted in order to discover what the different drugs actually do to a man. It is to be hoped that this research will be increased, and that definitive findings beyond dispute will be made. Unfortunately this may take considerable time. Bodily harm done by certain forms of smoking tobacco have only been seriously considered in recent years, although the smoking habit has been with us for hundreds of years.
It is important that people should learn about the drugs, especially parents of young people and children, and keep themselves informed as to the findings of the researches being made. It is not good to confront the young people and children with arguments based merely on emotion or panic and ignorance. Opposition to the taking of drugs is necessary, but enlightened opposition is far more effective than unenlightened opposition.
When some disorder such as this taking of drugs first arises, people have to judge about it from the individual cases which they know or have heard about. From this, generalizations are made which are sometimes not true. As we know in the case of alcohol, for some alcohol is wholly destructive to the whole life of a man but in other cases it is not. So also in the case of the abuse of the milder or “soft” drugs, with some the results are terrible, and with others not so terrible. With some the taking of the milder drugs leads on to the taking of the less mild ones and to horrible waste of human lives, and with others it does not lead on to this . Unfortunately there is no way of telling ahead of time what hidden preconditions or influences are going to make this difference. The number of tragedies brought on by alcohol alone is enough to cause one to wonder whether its social uses are worth the risk to those unfortunates who will destroy their lives by the abuse of it. And this is even more the ca3e with other, drugs, whose effect on the mind is more immediate The number of people, especially now among the young, who go from the milder to the harder drugs is frightening, and the number of tragedies, broken lives, suicides, murders, laid to the taking of drugs is also frightening The argument is sometimes raised in favor of the taking of drugs that the milder ones are no worse than the abuse of alcohol. This is not a very good argument. There is no use in the abuse of alcohol, only very great harm. Why should human society want to add another such danger to itself?