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The Case Against Psychedelic Drugs

Should Christians embrace this new form of therapy?

Introduction

Modern society has a complicated relationship with drugs. On one hand, there are medications and pharmaceuticals that can be used to cure illnesses or save a person’s life. On the other hand, however, there are recreational drugs that people mostly use to get high or “stoned.” In other words, people often use these drugs in order to experience feelings of euphoria and carefree bliss.

Why would people willingly use mind-altering substances like these? Mainly because they want to escape their day-to-day troubles. But while drugs and psychedelics may seem good at the moment, they can also wreak havoc on a person.

Drugs can cause a person to become addicted, forming a psychological and physical dependence on the substance. From a physical health standpoint, drug addiction can inflict long-term damage on a person’s brain, lungs, and heart. Additionally, psychedelics and drugs can show people nightmarish hallucinations, scarring them for life.

All of these reasons are good enough to avoid drugs on a surface level. But what happens when people begin to use psychedelic drugs as a form of therapy?

In the past few years, medical practitioners have begun trying to answer that question. Recently, there has been a growing movement of people taking drugs like dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and psilocybin to treat mental illnesses like depression and PTSD. This new rise in psychedelic drug use is especially prominent among young adults.

Some psychedelic trips apparently seem to improve a person’s mental health. Many users claim to learn new truisms about themselves, the world, and/or the universe through their trips. Others claim to have found God via their drug trip. But are things really as good as they seem?

Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, there is not a lot of information on psychedelics from a Biblical worldview. But as Christians, we must test every spirit and cultural phenomenon (1 John 4:1). While psychedelics may seem harmless on the surface, this author supports the view that they have dangerous side effects that outweigh potential benefits.

Christians should mainly avoid psychedelics for two reasons: they disrupt nepho (sober-mindedness), and they are related to pharmakeia (sorcery or witchcraft).

The Importance of Nepho

The Greek word nepho or nephomen means to be sober-minded or to abstain from wine. This word is used multiple times in the New Testament as a command issued to Christians. Consider the following two verses:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:18)

These verses are examples of how Christians ought to be: alert and clear-headed. In our walk with the Lord, we must not be mastered by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12). Additionally, since our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, we are to honor God with our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).

For example, it is okay to drink alcohol — Jesus turns water into wine and drinks wine during the Last Supper. However, it is not okay to become intoxicated. Drunkenness is sinful because it disrupts nepho, impairing the brain’s ability to function properly. Indeed, if we do bad things drunk that we would never do sober, we have only ourselves to blame.

Though the Bible never explicitly talks about drugs, the same principle can be applied. People almost always seek to become high when they take drugs, especially when doing so recreationally. In this instance, the drug user is deliberately choosing to alter his or her mind in order to have a “positive” experience and escape reality.

However, this too is sinful because it still disrupts nepho. According to Scripture, the only lawful use of psychedelics would be for purely medicinal purposes. This is what the modern push for psychedelic therapy intends to argue. Practitioners control the dosage of drugs, like DMT, in order to heal a patient from mental illnesses.

In this context, should psychedelic drugs become acceptable for the Christian? Well, there is one more aspect to consider: pharmakeia.

The Dangers of Pharmakeia

Pharmakeia is a Greek word that can mean “sorcery” or “witchcraft.” However, note that in the Bible the word is typically used to refer to drug use or abuse. Fittingly, this word is where we get the English word “pharmacy” from.

Since pharmakeia refers both to medicinal drugs and recreational drugs, we must be careful to apply context here. In Bible times, drugs were often used as part of pagan rituals. Sorcerers would use drugs to enhance their occult power, while other people would use mind-altering drugs to “enhance” religious practices. This form of pharmakeia included the use of drugs in oracles and would sometimes include psychedelics. This is where we return to our problem.

Christian podcasters Brian Sauvé and Ben Garrett of the Haunted Cosmos podcast argue that DMT and other psychedelics put people in contact with demons or other spiritual beings. The stories the hosts relate in the linked episode seem to suggest such interactions. Whether or not psychedelics truly cause a person to encounter spirits, the mere possibility should concern us.

Furthermore, some atheists or agnostics who took psychedelics claim to have seen God and converted. While it is a joy to see people convert to Christianity, we must be careful not to rely on psychedelics to make that happen. First, since no one has seen God in His pure essence (1 John 4:12), we cannot know if these people saw the God of the Bible. Second, overuse of psychedelics may result in us making these drugs into an idol. We may seek the drug for spiritual experiences, rather than trusting the Lord and His Word.

Conclusion

The point of this article is not to discourage people from finding help for their mental problems. Rather, it is to urge people to be cautious around drugs that we do not fully understand.

Additionally, it is rather concerning how manufactured the data around psychedelic therapy seems to be. According to a recent research article, many of the experiments regarding MDMA-AP (ecstasy) are biased in favor of positive results. Much of the available research regarding psychedelics tends to downplay the risks or negative effects of the drugs.

This should instill in us a healthy amount of skepticism. From both a biological and theological spirit, Christians should avoid using psychedelics. Even when used as a medicine, the Christian should understand the consequences of losing nepho. For every positive trip that heals a person’s PTSD, there is possibly a terrifying hallucination that could permanently cripple a person’s mental health.

For now, we should stick to other, more reliable forms of seeking help for our problems. Of course, this includes the greatest help of all: the living Word of God.

 


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AuthorBrandon Charles | BCWorldview.org 

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