There are people, both Christian and non-Christian, who share a common belief that the use of prescribed narcotic-based pain medication is wrong. Some believe that using them has a moral downside. In their way of thinking, anything that makes you feel good just has to be sinful. Others are more concerned with physical addiction. I’ve known of parents who wouldn’t give their children pain medication after surgery, ignorantly believing that the child would become an uncontrollable drug addict, robbing liquor stores to maintain their habit.
Stuff like this is one of the reasons people think Christianity is bogus. To condemn something that helps alleviate pain and suffering and generally makes life easier is a belief that stems from (mostly) younger Christians who haven't experienced surgery, wisdom tooth extractions, and so forth. But I've also known older folks who have the same belief. Why? Simply because the medication gives you a sense of well-being. Now if the pills make you vomit, give you cramps, headaches, and what-not, then that's a good medicine! Better to suffer in the throes of misery than experience a sinful “high.”
When doctors were investigating anesthesia in the 17th and 18th centuries, preachers were quick to point out that it was of the devil, forgetting that God Himself put Adam to sleep in order to remove a rib. Adam was fortunate that some of these folks I've known weren't doing the surgery.
When I was in Walter Reed hospital, there was an old man in his 80’s, dying of cancer in the next room. The nurses would give him hourly injections of morphine to help relieve his misery as he migrated towards death. The rest of us on the ward could set our watches by his screams of agony when his next shot was due. To this day, I remember that poor guy’s screams.
Those who hold to such notions have never had surgery, have never suffered (or seen a loved one suffer) through terminal cancer, or experienced other debilitating pain. I suffered second- and third-degree burns on both legs and feet, spending 2 weeks in a regional burn treatment center. I can only describe the pain as if I had waded into a pool of molten lava. Without such drugs, I would have died of shock.
Folks embrace this belief merely because the medication makes one feel good. They think that the “buzz” one gets from the narcotic is sinful. Never mind that the drug does its job of minimizing or eliminating a person’s agony. The “buzz” is called a side effect. You don’t take the drug for the side effect, you take it to kill the pain. Anti-drug folks are suffering from a conscience issue. They think that because narcotics make a person loopy, this is somehow wrong, and on that basis alone, should be avoided.
The New Testament condemns the idea that avoiding certain things makes you more godly and righteous:
…why…do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. (Col 2:20-23) (Emphasis mine)
In their opinion, taking Motrin for Stage 4 cancer may not be as effective, but it’ll cleanse your soul. To them, it’s a sin to have a sense of well being brought on by a chemical. Better to writhe on your bed in excruciating pain (self-abasement and severe treatment of the body) with a couple of aspirin in your gut rather than enjoy a “sinful” drug high!
Adding to this is the idea that some in the church believe that women should deliver babies without the help of drugs. They base this on God’s pronouncement on Eve:
I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth. In pain you will bring forth children. (Gen 3:16)
Genesis 3:16 has to do with God multiplying sorrow upon sorrow both during and after pregnancy. It is not so much the physical pain of childbirth as it is that of a mother’s knowledge that she’s bringing a dead person into the world, a sinner doomed to die. Men who promote this should look at Adam’s curse: that of doing hard, miserable work in order to eat. I would suggest that if you’re going to insist your wife deliver a child without pain meds, that you also give up your cushy desk job and go find work digging ditches or planting crops.
When God made this world, He provided the compounds necessary to make everything we’ve imagined, including drugs. Like guns and knives, drugs can and are used for evil. Guns can bring home dinner or they can murder. In the same way, drugs are a pathway to addiction from abuse, but they also provide relief to those suffering legitimate, crippling pain. To condemn their use simply because of a pleasant side effect shows a gross ignorance of the Bible and a basic lack of empathy toward others.
Side Note On the Opioid “Crisis” in America
The CDC has removed most of its findings on the opioid crisis from their web site because their findings contradict a lot of the hype. Agencies such as the National Chronic Pain Activist Commission, however, are trying to get politicians and the public away from the lunacy being promoted by do-gooders who are trying to push an agenda. Most of the overdose deaths from opioids are those who (1) were not prescribed the medication in the first place. Typically, they steal it from a relative or ask to use a neighbor's bathroom and nick a few pills from the medicine cabinet. (2) It is not prescription opioids doing the killing; it is the illegal powdered fentanyl coming out of China (all legal fentanyl is in liquid form). Folks are also mixing it with heroin (another illegal drug), and killing themselves as a result. Fentanyl is 256 times more potent than morphine, but I guess that isn't high enough for some.
Yet who is
being targeted? Not the people taking the illegal stuff. Not the
folks stealing grandpa's cancer meds. Not the movie stars and pop
singers who are getting it from subverted physicians. The targets are
those who have been legitimately given the drugs. You and me.
Politicians have gotten on the Opioid Crisis bandwagon, where idiotic
legislation has been the result. The laws amount to burning down the
house to get rid of the mice. There is a lot of grief from patients
who are feeling the heavy hand of government, folks who are convinced
that the congressmen behind these inane initiatives are exempting
themselves, their families, and their doctors from such legislation.
Legitimate users and their doctors are being put under the microscope by the Drug Enforcement Agency. At the VA Medical Center, where I get my supplies, vets are being told by their doctors that they have to reduce the number of pills—no matter the circumstances. The charts shown in the staff meetings are the only things that matter—anything to get out of the DEA's scope of interest.
I'm in tune with the public feelings on this subject, mainly because I depend on Tramadol for certain disabilities. I've also seen the articles and feeds from parents who lost a child from opioids. But just like my neighbor, the youngster died from stealing his mom's pills and taking too many. Folks use these unfortunate events to promote an idiotic and heartless agenda. It's gotten so bad, that some emergency rooms will no longer give narcotic-based drugs to people with grievous injuries. One nurse was proud of it, touting the use of Tylenol and Motrin as being “just as effective.” I wonder if she broke her leg in a couple of places and she was given OTC meds, would she feel the same way?