Spiritual Dimensions of Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is a diverse problem which affects nearly all cultures of the world; this global problem is well defined as a maladaptive pattern of recurrent use of chemical substances that extends over a period of time, leading to notable impairment and continues despite occupational, psychological, medical, and spiritual consequences whereas continued use leads to addiction or dependency. Substance abuse related problems are caused by multiple factors and can only be treated and corrected through a multidimensional approach. Substance abuse is treatable, and for that to happen, intervention is required.

Substance abuse encompasses any form of chemical dependence and addiction. Substance abuse must be defined from a vantage point of abuse of substances ranging from tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs and other medically prescribed drugs. It’s a fact that both legal and illegal drugs can be addictive and requires treatment.

Substance abuse is defined as a maladaptive pattern of recurrent use of chemical substances that extends over a period of twelve months, leading to notable impairment or distress and continues despite social occupational, psychological, physical and safety problems. In simple terms, substance abuse is extended use that extends the acceptable limits.

SUBSTANCE DEPENDENCY – Maladaptive pattern of use which extends over a period of twelve months and characterized by unsuccessful efforts to control the use despite knowledge of harmful effects, taking more of the substance than intended. The user is unable to cut down or control use but increases usage in large amounts. Dependence in my view is pattern of use which makes a person unable to live without chemical substances either legal or illegal.

At this stage, it becomes evident that the user has lost control over his or her substance use and is now addicted. Therefore, the use becomes increased at a higher velocity and in larger amounts. This stage is coupled with serious tolerance to particular drugs.

TOLERANCE – Condition in which increased doses of a substance is necessary to achieve the desired effects. e.g. being high and being cool.

Psychologically speaking, substance abuse is defined as an abnormal behavior and is actually a disorder. Abnormal behaviors are defined by psychology as disorders, but in my spiritual analysis abnormal behaviors are complicated spiritual problems.


An alcoholic is a person who abuses alcohol and is dependent on it.


Substance related disorder characterized by abuse of or dependency on alcohol.

Heavy debates surround this subject, some have popularized the theory that substance abuse and addiction is a disease which only requires treatment nothing more, some also says it’s a demonic problem which requires deliverance and that’s all. Both theories in their respect have some element of truth, but to be on the safe side, it’s proper for us to view it as a spiritual problem, psychological disorder, a demonic problem and a problem of sin and poor choices in life.

This makes a person responsible for his own actions and choices. If we solely say it’s a disease, no personal responsibility is put on the user, if it’s only a demonic problem; we then have to blame demons for the use of substance. Like I have alluded, as a multidimensional problem, substance abuse must be treated multidimensionally. We cannot overlook the hand of God and the need for repentance on the part of an individual user. To be delivered and saved from substance abuse and addiction, one must admit that it is a sin and must be repented.

The following has helped me properly understand what substance abuse really is;

1. Substance dependence is idolatry. A person should depend on God and love God not substances.
2. Substance abuse breaks the principles of stewardship of the body and one’s health.
3. Substance abuse projects and promotes inappropriate behaviors and lifestyles.
4. Substance abuse violates sanity and soberness.
5. Substance abuse promotes crime, violence and death.
6. Substance abuse is breaking the law and showing disrespect to authority. Romans13vs1-3.
7. Substance abuse is a work and lust of the flesh.
8. Substance abuse defiles the temple of God.

Alcohol or drug habits are enticing, inviting and opportunistic; once they find their way in one’s life they become stubborn and eventually explode like a volcano.

There is a way that seems right unto a man but the end thereof is death. Proverbs14:12(KJV)

Many problems ranging from family dysfunctions, sicknesses, even death are an end product of substance abuse. Severe road accidents in most of our roads are highly linked to alcohol and drug abuse. Many people driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs end up in trouble. Substance abuse is a serious threat to humanity.

To some people alcohol abuse started out as a form of pleasure, leisure and socialization but unfortunately, they eventually found themselves in the pit of addiction, destruction and slavery to substances addiction and abuse.

I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heavens all the days of their life. Ecclesiastes2:3

Alcohol and drug abuse seriously violates and undermines health laws and spiritual principles. Taking care of the body and our own lives is part of a divine mandate; failure to do so is consequential. It’s wisdom not to use alcohol and drugs as a person. Scripture declares that those who abuse alcohol are not wise.

Wine is a mocker, a strong drink is raging and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. Proverbs20:1

Substance abuse is to be viewed as being cruel and abusive to the body and all its functions. We are custodians of our own well being in all capacities.

Substance abuse is a multidimensional problem with a spiritual dimension attached to it. Anything you can’t control by your personal and human abilities in my opinion qualifies to be a spiritual problem. Addiction is indeed a spiritual problem beyond any shadow of doubt. Real men are addicted and committed to Christ and the service of others (ministry) not alcohol and drugs. 1Corithians16:15

Substance abuse projects and promotes lasciviousness at its highest dimension. To be lascivious is simply to live carelessly and irresponsibly.

Substance abuse has serious consequences spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and socially.

In general terms, substance abuse is not without victims and casualties. It’s irresponsible, careless and lascivious to allow substances to rule, control and ruin your good life.

One wise man once said “life is tough and substance abuse makes it even tougher. It’s worthy noting that it takes courage and wisdom to stand up and say “Ke Moja” no thanks I am fine without drugs. Every one has a responsibility to say no to drugs and alcoholism, this not a choice but demand. Our God demands this from us, society demands this, our children demand this, our parents demand this, and our spouses demand this.

The bible is clear as touching drunkenness and any form of intoxication. Unfortunately, what is expected as ethical behavior within the Christian context is different from what unchristian people uphold as a set of ethics. However, true ethics are derived from the nature and the person of God. It’s my conviction that all human beings are responsible and accountable to God regardless of their religious affiliation.

Therefore, if substance abuse is condemned by God’s word as sinful and idolatry, then all men and women who practice such must repent and turn away from such sins and seek God’s divine intervention and deliverance.

God has place a conscience in every one of us which make us know what is acceptable to God and for the good of ourselves and other people. The issue of ignorance of the dangers and evil of substance abuse is not an excuse.

And the time of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent. Act17:30

Who hath a woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions? Who hath babbling? Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wines. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth its color in the cup, when it moveth aright. At last it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women and thine heart utter perverse things. Proverbs23:29-33

According to this text, wine and strong drinks are seen to promote drunkenness and social disorder. The word woe classified as a curse or cry of lament.

The oxford dictionary defines a woe as a distress, things that cause sorrow, troubles or misfortunes. If this is what woes are, then we cannot expect any thing from alcoholism or from any form of intoxication.

Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drinks that continue until night, till wine inflames them. Isaiah5:11

In our African society, this biblical text is more accurate and good analogy, men and women who are struggling with substance abuse especially alcoholism spend nearly all their time and money at a sheeben, neglecting their responsibilities. Many families are neglected and many homes broken because of this problem. The children of addicted parents never enjoy a normal and decent life, all they experience is abuse and domestic violence in their homes.

Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink. Isaiah5:22

And take heed to yourselves lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. Luke21:34

we are therefore suppose to be careful the way we respond to emotional and psychological problems.

Give us help from trouble for vain is the help of man. Psalms108:12

Those struggling with substance abuse must seek help in all forms, but above all God’s help is the only way out of addiction. The help is man is limited but God’s help is unlimited and permanent. On the other hand we must agree that God can use people, institutions or programs to help people with addictions.

But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death. Proverbs8:36(KJV)

Sin brings a lot of harm to the spirit man and also to the soul and the body.

Know ye not that your body is the temple of God and that Holy Spirit dwelleth in you. If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. 1 Corinthians3:16

It’s imperative to know that God with God exist his perfect and permissive will. His will for us must be perfect and not permissive. Therefore our choices must be fully aligned with his perfect will.

This is supported by the following biblical text from Paul’s writings:

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me but I will not be brought under the power of any. 1 Corinthians6vs12

God gave us this precious gift of life and bodies. We are to be good stewards of our own bodies for we are temples to be inhabited by God and vessels to be used for righteousness. We are to give our bodies as slaves of righteousness not drugs or demons.

What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have of God and ye are not your own. For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1Corithians 6:19-20

Substance abuse discredits the moral decency and character of a person. This problem cannot be classified as a problem for people with little or no education or the underprivileged. It’s a problem which affects all sectors of society and groupings. Substance abuse such as alcohol and drug abuse is found amongst elite personalities such as doctors, dentists, lawyers, policemen, soldiers, celebrity musicians, actors, students and graduates.

Addiction and abuse of substances can be found nearly in every society and cultures of the world. Some cultures have made alcohol use as a way of socializing and mingling with friends, while others blame work related stress and strains for the use and abuse of substances, on the other hand some blame their community, environments for their influence and other blame relational and marital problems.

To some extent, some blame poverty, unemployment and boredom for their abuse of substances like alcohol. My argument on this one is that to sustain a drug or alcohol lifestyle, you need a financier. In tough economic times, I believe people should use money wisely to take good care of themselves and their families. But the little people have, they carelessly spend it on alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. Therefore in my view, lack of money must be discounted as a reason for the use and abuse of substances.

No matter the reasons for the use and abuse, substance abuse must be condemned by society and it should not be accepted as normative or part of our community values and life. Substance abuse in any fashion is not without negative impacts and effects. Where ever substance abuse is present, you will find all sorts of negative and unpleasant things happening. Substance abuse must be viewed as a disorder, spiritual problem and moral fallout. It must not be accepted as normal behavior.

The bible advocates for decency, sanity and soberness. These virtues as and prescribed and predicated by scriptures cannot be found where substance abuse is present.

People struggling with substance abuse of any kind should not be ashamed to seek help. This problem is treatable if early intervention is made.

1 comment

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