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Most of us know someone addicted to drugs—whether alcohol, street drugs, or prescription pain killers.
Many of these individuals began their path to drug addiction by experimenting with alcohol and marijuana. They then began trying more dangerous drugs as further steps in the addictive process.
But others, as emphasized by regular media reports, are prescribed opioid pain relievers for medical reasons. Many of these patients become addicted to these powerful pain killers and eventually turn to street drugs such as heroin as cheaper and more readily available substitutes.
The personal cost to the addicted individual is extremely high. It includes: the loss of self-control, the loss of self-esteem, the need to lie to conceal the habit, the distrust the user creates in significant others because of his or her lies, the loss of income due to lost employment, the loss of the support of a spouse and children due to divorce, time in prison due to theft in order to support an increasingly expensive habit, and even severe illness and death. The list of personal costs goes on and on.
The costs to society itself may be even higher: healthcare costs, crime, homelessness, imprisonment, etc.—not to mention the loss of the potential positive contribution to humanity every addict might have made.
When we multiply the personal costs of substance abuse across society, that cost becomes incalculable. But what are the spiritual costs?
In the late 1800’s, Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, forbade his followers from participating in addictive behavior and from partaking of addictive substances. He particularly outlawed the use of opium. He wrote:
Gambling and the use of opium have been forbidden unto you. Eschew them both, O people, and be not of those who transgress. Beware of using any substance that induceth sluggishness and torpor in the human temple and inflicteth harm upon the body. We, verily, desire for you naught save what shall profit you, and to this bear witness all created things, had ye but ears to hear. – The Most Holy Book, p. 75.
Baha’u’llah further wrote in the same book:
It hath been forbidden you to smoke opium. We, truly, have prohibited this practice through a most binding interdiction in the Book. Should anyone partake thereof, assuredly he is not of Me. Fear God, O ye endued with understanding! – Ibid., p. 90.
From these statements it is explicitly clear that Baha’u’llah’s prohibition against using opium and any other substance that “… induceth sluggishness and torpor in the human temple” is for our benefit.
Abdu’l-Baha—Baha’u’llah’s son, appointed by him to head the Baha’i Faith after his passing—used particularly strong language when he wrote:
As to opium, it is foul and accursed. God protect us from the punishment He inflicteth on the user. According to the explicit Text of the Most Holy Book, it is forbidden, and its use is utterly condemned. Reason showeth that smoking opium is a kind of insanity, and experience attesteth that the user is completely cut off from the human kingdom. May God protect all against the perpetration of an act so hideous as this, an act which layeth in ruins the very foundation of what it is to be human, and which causeth the user to be dispossessed for ever and ever. For opium fasteneth on the soul so that the user’s conscience dieth, his mind is blotted away, his perceptions are eroded. It turneth the living into the dead. It quencheth the natural heat. No greater harm can be conceived than that which opium inflicteth. Fortunate are they who never even speak the name of it; then think how wretched is the user.
O ye lovers of God! In this, the cycle of Almighty God, violence and force, constraint and oppression, are one and all condemned. It is, however, mandatory that the use of opium be prevented by any means whatsoever, that perchance the human race may be delivered from this most powerful of plagues. And otherwise, woe and misery to whoso falleth short of his duty to his Lord. – Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 148-149.
In another passage Abdu’l-Baha stated concerning opium: “the user, the buyer and the seller are all deprived of the bounty and grace of God.” – The Most Holy Book, p. 239.
In yet another Tablet, Abdu’l-Baha wrote:
Alcohol consumeth the mind and causeth man to commit acts of absurdity, but this opium, this foul fruit of the infernal tree, and this wicked hashish extinguish the mind, freeze the spirit, petrify the soul, waste the body and leave man frustrated and lost.
It should be noted that the above prohibition against taking certain classes of drugs does not forbid their use when prescribed by qualified physicians as part of a medical treatment. – Ibid., pp. 237-238.
As we can see, the Baha’i teachings repeatedly warn us about the negative spiritual effects of using addictive drugs. If we understand that the life of our soul is everlasting and that it progresses through all of the worlds of God—spiritual worlds that we cannot even attempt to comprehend—why would anyone want to consume any substance that extinguishes the mind, freezes the spirit, petrifies the soul, wastes the body, and leaves him or her frustrated and lost?