Drug overdoses: Is addiction just dumb choices or is it more of an addiction

I felt this subject kind of touched on the issues of interpreting religious texts and applying it to your faith as well as the science of why addiction can be viewed as a disease as well as a societal issue. Different factors and communities can play a role in the likelihood of someone being an addict. Though obviously it can happen to anyone and does. Often wealthier people with addictions are viewed as functional this or that while the poorer person is basically just categorized as well they have a bad life because they are a junkie and ect…

I remember growing up and in church often hearing addiction tied to verses about being sober minded and there was really no emphasis on if someone was dealing with something traumatic . After all if it was just a disease why would God condemn those who are not sober minded type of arguments.

I’ll be honest. Though I’m asking the question it’s more because I recognize it as a serious problem in USA and the world. I believe that over 100k people overdosed and died in america during a one year span of 2020-21. Like 14k or something of those deaths were between the ages of 1-33. Not every overdose was because of addiction. Many were sad cases such as with the 12 year old , Dalilah Guerrero, who may have tried it for the very first time and was given a fentanyl laced pill by a 16 year old and she died after crushing and snorting it. Where I live, and probably elsewhere there have been cases of people kidnapping stray dogs and breaking legs and going to a vet in order to get paid pills and then they ditch the animals and use the drugs. One of the places I recently went hiking at , one of the dirt roads I drove on trying to find the place was saturated with the stench of drugs being cooked out of houses built from scarp metal panels and pallets. The pallets from stores. It growing up addicts were junkies and junkies were people who made bad choices and if they filled their hearts up with Jesus and came to church they would be held accountable and healed . There was also the drunks. Someone who drank all the time was a drunk and drunks were lazy people who created their own hell. There was never any talk of getting help, AA, or potential trauma or diseases involved. It was solely the persons own bad choices. The people who said it was a disease was just enablers blinded by love and past memories of the junkies. That’s literally how I heard it spoke most of my life. Even drug dealers would say it’s just supply and demand and if people demand it they will supply and if people want to make bad choices that’s on them.

So as saying I’m not really particularly interested in this subject. But I know that it’s killing a lot of people and thought it would nonetheless be worth discussing so that those raised up with a similar misunderstanding would have better Christian resources to look it.


Sin consists self-destructive habits and addiction is a very good example.

But this is because I think sin in general needs to be treated as a problem or disease to be overcome rather than a value judgement or an offense against God. It not about some idea that sinners ought to be punished but rather that sin by its own nature will bring undesirable consequences. Those undesirable consequences often include considerable misery it brings to those around you. Jesus says “you must be perfect” not because you are not allowed any mistakes from which to learn but because sin creates a living hell wherever it goes, so it is the simplest logic that if you want heaven then you must be without sin.

So what then? Drug addicts go to hell?

Drug addicts already are in hell. The question is whether they can get out? According to one study most do, but many do not.


I appreciate your posting here. I have seen quite a bit of death from overdosing. I agree that we need to emphasize what we can treat–and addiction is a definite disease.

The twelve step program, which acknowledges a higher power, is often used in alcohol; but it’s not really used as a guilt trip, but a perspective, I think.

I also like how you mentioned that we can all be addicts; the addictive problem ( food, etc) may just not be the kind that shows so much. It behooves us to find empathy with those who are struggling, or we can wind up forgetting the beam in our own eyes.


I understand a lot of overdoses are from contaminated drugs – street drugs like hydro- or oxycodone contaminated with fentanyl, for instance, or just widely varying quality and potency.

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@SkovandOfMitaze Thanks for bringing this topic up. It’s so easy for people who have not experienced this problem or taken seriously the experiences of those who have, to condemn based in ignorance and arrogance. There is more involved than will-power or being lead by the Holy Spirit.
Recently, I think it was @Trippy_Elixir had started a thread on panpsychism, in part out of concern over the connection between mind and body. I think addiction is an area where we see that connection (and I’ll throw in “spirit”, too) hugely magnified. To deny the part that embodiment or having a physiology plays in our whole existance helps no one.


We have had educators explain that some folks are so wired that after getting exposed to a given substance, they feel like someone who has not had a drink of water for days on a life raft. Supplying the right meds to them (suboxone, etc) blocks enough receptors to avoid the craving, yet allows them to function well…the number needed to treat to save one life is 4. That is way more effective than most other things anyone can do in medicine, so they are encouraging primary care providers to take the course to treat. Most people do not need these meds, and do better off opioids, period, but there are a significant number who need them.
Back in the late '90’s, we were told that opioids were safer than we thought, and docs were underprescribing pain meds. It was well intended, but you know how it worked out. After we realized the horrible outcomes, we have been weaning people off the meds, but a certain number seem to have a makeup that does not replace things like thus easily. I know quite a few people who benefit from maintenance meds and are now productive, but were really struggling otherwise. On the other hand, I also know young people who died after an accidental overdose

  • Historically, addiction has been viewed as “a disease.” From that perspective, the standard model is the “medical model” with “medication” as a primary tool for treatment.
  • The AA view is a disease model, but originally did not include medication as a treatment tool: promoting the belief that “once an addict, always an addict” and that behavior control is the best course of treatment.
  • Over time, proponents of the medical model and the behavioral model, joined forces: treat addiction with medication and rehab (i.e. behavioral training) centers.
  • Neuroscientist Marc Lewis (a former “addict” himself), however, argues that the “disease model” of addiction is wrong. Instead, he says that addiction is “a learned behavior” and can best be remediated by learning new behaviors that replace the old. Listen to the 10:42 minute Youtube: Neuroscientist Marc Lewis: 'Why Addiction is Not a Disease and/or read Lewis’ book: The Biology of Desire.
  • “Addiction is just dumb choices” and “shaming addicts out of their addiction” are “just dumb” beliefs and practices and, IMO, sins of thought, word, and deed.

Actually that was combine advisor that started the thread.


I agree with all the posts made so far, Mitchell’s especially. I’d just add that 24/7 free will probably does not exist. We are creatures of habit but have some say over which habits become entrenched. We can even alter some bad habits after the fact albeit with great effort. I guess you could say addicts are weak but aren’t we all? I wouldn’t want to pat my own back too awfully much for what may largely be good fortune.


I have such a hard time keeping this format straight. THank you.


In my experience, that is true, with the addition of mixed drug overdoses. When you mix narcotics or alcohol with benzos, death often results. Other overdoses that kill are sometime due to toxic effects unrelated to sedative effects, as often seen in intentional overdoses.


The acute physical and psychological effects of withdrawal can be absolutely vicious, especially for opioids. Many people have become dependent on prescribed opioids, and have turned to street drugs to avoid the pains of withdrawal. Many opioid addicts will tell you that their primary reason for doing drugs is to avoid getting sick, not necessarily to get high.

What is really heart breaking is when people get past that withdrawal and start using again. This is where people really need support from their community, family, and friends.

We also have to consider “self-medication”. This is where people use drugs in order to deal with underlying psychological issues. It’s hard to blame someone for seeking out some way to dull the pain they are going through.

I think that has more to do with the impact on society. Wealthy addicts aren’t sleeping on the streets and stealing to feed their habit. Also, addictions can seriously hamper upward economic mobility and lead to generational poverty. In other words, addiction disproportionately impacts the poor at a societal and economic level. At the personal level, addiction can be equally devastating no matter how much money you have in the bank.


Step 1 in “12-step” (originally from AA) is "We admitted we were powerless over “___ " and our lives had become unmanageable”. The step starts with the word “we” in because it is what the people who have been successful in dealing with whatever issue they are powerless over (the “___” between the quotes) started on the new road by allowing to enter the idea that they were “powerless” on their own over that thing, and they couldn’t manage it on their own. They learn that their “thing” is a PHYSICAL, MENTAL, SPIRITUAL malady.

Even the programs such Al-anon, use the exact same steps though their powerlessness is over the person with the malady as well as the malady itself as they are wrapped up together.
That powerlessness extends to “people, places and things”, BUT there is one who has power… and by HIs power and grace we can be freed.

One of the most common addictions is food. 70% of Americans are overweight or obese. Less behavioral difficulties and more socially acceptable in some ways. The ‘pushers’ of this addiction are a multi-billion dollar industry, and it’s a hard one in some respects because one doesn’t just stop eating, it’s changing how, what one eats, and the drug there is legally available and always around and others that don’t have the food ‘allergy’ so to speak have a clue. Recently the parents of a child who was morbidly obese were charged with, (not sure exactly I think it was) negligent homicide when she died.

I read an article about a recovering addict/alcoholic who in sobriety started working on Wall street and soon realized he had become addicted to the money, the bonus etc. and realize our whole economy, legislative body was composed of many money addicts, and followed the trail to it’s affect on our nation, tax structures, healthcare… (like the argument of the drug pusher absolving himself by saying it’s someone’s choice).

If one looks to the physical part, that’s the dopamine boost in the brain, the ‘hedonic treadmill’, like all illness the physical takes time to heal; for the brain to make new pathways. Time to learn new ways of thinking about the patterns in our lives that lead us down the addiction path, so that we learn to avoid those streets, not make the ‘dumb choice’ and CHOOSE others. Call an understanding friend rather than “pick up”. Choose the fruit over the donut today, take a breath rather than yell, quietly support a charity rather than line a pocket, choose carrying a reusable tote than getting another plastic bag… As with any disease, treatment depends on the patient, sometimes medication is called for, sometimes exercise, sometimes just meetings are well enough. Many find a good therapist that understands their particular malady, vital. “Don’t ___ and go to meetings.”

The Spiritual part is coming to believe in a power outside ourselves who can heal us. Recognizing the grace we have been given and that when we seeing others with addictions, “there, BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD go I. How can I use my gift to help others?” Asking the Higher Power" ( original writers of AA 12-steps hope others will come to know as and call God) through prayer and meditation, what His will for us is.

Healing takes time, “Things I Must Earn”.

Those without such ‘addictions’ can still ‘love’ those struggling by learning how to be supportive, not a ‘stumbling block’. Often, pointing, blaming the addict is the addiction of the dysfunctional other and the same steps help to learn better about themselves and choose better paths.

Recovery is complicated. “There is one who has power, may you find Him now.” closes the paragraph after the steps list. God responds to the tiniest bit of faith, “Do you want to get well?” he asks the lame man by the well, “pick up your palette and walk.” One of the blind men can see at first, but only “men walking around like trees” took a second dose of healing to full sight.

Why do some recover and other don’t. That is another topic.


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