Drug Dependency occurs with a great variety of drugs, including alcohol. The generic term is chemical dependency and includes all forms of addiction or dependency on any mood-changing substance.
What is drug dependency? It is any use, misuse or abuse of chemicals in such a way that it interferes with or causes problems in the person's social, family, personal, or spiritual life. The medical profession considers this form of dependency an illness which is characterized as follows: it is (1) chronic, i.e. it is lifelong; (2) progressive, i.e. it worsens over time; (3) insidious, i.e. the individual is frequently not aware of its occurrence; (4) incurable, i.e. abstinence is the only solution; and (5) it is ultimately fatal. Basic psychological effects are severe guilt, remorse, shame, isolation, anxiety, and panic.
Signs of dependency are many but two are outstanding: First, preoccupation with sedative effects, which is an emotional response to the drug-created effects within the individual. An initial euphoric response induces feelings of well-being and elation, which is subjective in nature and experienced as profound by the user. Recurrent preoccupation with future experience of elation or "getting high," is a first symptom and ultimate hallmark of drug dependence.
The second hallmark of drug dependence is loss of control which is present when someone uses sedative drugs against his own will, or when someone cannot entirely limit the amount she may consume once intake begins. The individual is frequently not aware of loss of control, which is identified over time as the user encounters an infinite variety of dependency complications. Sedative drugs and their effects become a refuge or a form of escape from the tensions created by drug use. An elaborate system of justification follows in which the individuals will rationalize, project, or deny drug use.
Drug dependence is cultural as well as personal. Social permissiveness and the availability of prescription drugs for medicinal purposes as well as recreational uses of alcohol and other nonprescription drugs are pervasive. Compounding these facts is the intensification of advertising about the medicinal and recreational uses of chemicals upholding them as helpful or recreational and harmless. Understanding dependency requires understanding a cultural background from which such use arises. Drug use is a cultural and social problem and not just an individual matter.
Historically Mennonites displayed varied and mixed attitudes and practices towards the use of alcohol. Currently the use of alcohol and other sedatives is receiving renewed attention among Mennonites. An example is Daniel L. Haarer, The church's attitudes toward alcohol (1984).
Biblical texts do not resolve the issue of drug and alcohol use. The Bible speaks clearly against drunkenness, while supporting moderate and culturally appropriate consumption or use. Drug and alcohol use at both the personal and cultural level raises issues to be debated and decided by contemporary Mennonites, who are indeed united in opposition to drunkenness and chemical dependency. The elusive and conflictual issue is that of moderate, controlled use of alcohol and of sedative, prescription, and nonprescription drugs.
Theologically, chemical dependency can be understood as a fundamental dislocation of the divine-human relationship. The essential ingredient in the theologically proper relationship between human beings and God is that humans understand and accept their dependence for creation and sustenance upon God alone. Chemical dependency, as other compulsive attachments, is a fundamental violation of the First Commandment: "Thou shalt have no other Gods before me." From this central sin and estrangement from God other multiple "sins" develop as relationships are violated and suffer. Addressing misdirected dependencies is the central and perennial mission of the church of Jesus Christ.
In addition to work with dependency, education, preventive measures, and standards of use also command the attention of the church. Christians have a moral obligation to provide an atmosphere and experience in which the fruits of the Holy Spirit are sufficiently evident to serve as effective alternatives to the fruit of the vine. Chemically dependent persons often describe in part their motivation to consume in terms of obtaining experiences that seem to parallel the apostle Paul's description of the "fruits of the Holy Spirit." Chemical dependency as a compulsive illness can be confronted by attractive alternatives. The choice to use or abstain must be made by individuals while retaining an awareness that drug use is a social and cultural matter that calls for the witness of the church.
Haarer, Daniel L. The Church's Attitudes Toward Alcohol. Newton and Scottdale, 1984.
Kauffman, J. Howard and Leland Harder. Anabaptists Four Centuries Later: a Profile of Five Mennonite and Brethren in Christ Denominations. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1975: 123-29.
Epp, Frank H. Mennonites in Canada 1786-1920: the History of a Separate People. Toronto, ON: Macmillan, 1974: 86-87.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 248. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Schrock, Freeman A. and John K. Hershberger. "Drug Dependency." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. March 1989. Web. 20 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/D78ME.html.
APA style: Schrock, Freeman A. and John K. Hershberger. (March 1989). Drug Dependency. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/D78ME.html.