Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Family Conference Special: Addiction-Alcoholism
Volume 7 No. 426 July 21, 2017

IV. Malankara World Special: Addiction

Featured Article: Addiction

The term "addiction" refers to an excessive dependence on anything such as alcohol, drug, sex etc. An addict is "a person who engages in a high rate of drug use and who has a sufficient history of reinforced drug taking to outweigh the more socially acceptable rewards of life." ...

Exploring the Long Term Effects of Drug Addiction

Drug addiction can cause many health issues and, long term drug abuse especially, can really strain a person’s body. Long term addiction can cause lasting physical and emotional issues that can affect many aspects of life. ..

Ten Helpful Life-Saving Facts About Addiction

Understanding the truth about addiction will help you be more equipped to support your child in a healthy way. You will also feel less stressed and anxious. ...

IV. Malankara World Special: Addiction

Featured Article: Addiction

by Rev. Fr. Dr. Binoy Alexander
Vicar, St. Ephrem Knanaya Syrian Orthodox Church, Detroit, MI
St. Basil's Syriac Orthodox Church, Cleveland, Ohio
Faculty, South University
Member of Malankara World Advisory Board

The term "addiction" refers to an excessive dependence on anything such as alcohol, drug, sex etc. An addict is "a person who engages in a high rate of drug use and who has a sufficient history of reinforced drug taking to outweigh the more socially acceptable rewards of life." (1) The addicted person is one who is completely dependent on something physically, mentally, and psychologically. Addiction can be defined as a state in which the addicted person is mentally, physically and psychologically dependent on a substance despite its dangerous consequences. It is a state in which the addicted person can do nothing without the dependency of the substance. That means the addicted person does nothing; instead the consumed substance does whatever he/she wishes to do. As the old Japanese proverb, "first man takes drink then the drink takes drink, and then the drink takes the man", is true in the case of addicts. At first they take the drug for company's sake and then it encourages them to take more and more and at last it completely swallows them. The addicted persons completely surrender to the substance to which they are addicted. There are some people who have too much passion for something like old items, coin collection, stamp collection, handicrafts etc. They find pleasure in spending more time with these things.

There are four basic elements of any addictive behavior.

(1) Tolerance

(2) Craving

(3) Loss of control

(4) Physical dependence

All these elements play an important role in each addictive behavior. As studies show, addicts and non-addicts have different patterns of brain electrical activity. This difference indicates that alcohol or drugs do not affect the brains of the addicts in the same way as they affect non-addicts. Because of the way their brains respond, addicts may develop an unusual desire for the addictive substance. Dennis Thombs (2) classifies addiction into three sets of beliefs as follows:

(1) Addiction as Immoral Conduct

Addiction refuses the ethical or moral code of conduct which may lead the addicted to be isolated from the family and society. Addiction is considered an immoral conduct because it is a freely chosen behavior and the addicts create suffering for others like friends and family members and also for themselves.

(2) Addiction as Disease

Excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs is the result of an underlying disease process. This idea holds that the addicts are the victims of an illness. Here this behavior is not freely chosen by the addict, rather it is considered to be beyond the control of the addict. Addiction as a disease means that "the disease is not caused by heavy drinking or drug use, tress, or psychiatric disorders; rather, it is thought to be the cause of these very conditions." (3) Once we take alcohol or drug for just company's sake, it creates an intensive craving which may lead us to compulsive use of the substance. Then it becomes beyond the personal control of the addict. Because addiction is considered as disease, addicts need care, help and treatment.

(3) Addiction as Maladaptive Behavior

This concept holds that addiction is a behavioral disorder. It is shaped by the same laws that shape all human behaviors. It is neither sinful, nor disease but a behavioral problem under the control of environment, family, and society. Each of these aspects has its own merits and demerits. So addiction can be understood as the combination of all these aspects. The addicts face biological, psychological, social and spiritual problems caused by the substance. Some of them can be treated medically and the rest can be handled with mutual care and counseling.


The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and the American Society of Addiction Medicine defines alcoholism as "a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations". It continues,

"the disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by continuous or periodic impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences and distortions in thinking, most notably denial." (4)

Alcoholism is a learned habit which harmfully affects the physical, psychological, social and spiritual health of the alcoholic. Since it is a learned habit it can be treated successfully with the cooperation of the alcoholics and their family members. In 1956 , the American Medical Association recognized alcoholism as a disease, which means an excessive craving for alcoholic beverages despite its dangerous consequences on the whole life of the addicted person. The alcoholics have no control over their drinking. Even if they stop drinking for a while, they go back to obsessive drinking due to the strong urge of the body for alcohol or withdrawal symptoms. As a disease it can be treated successfully. Through pastoral care and counseling the alcoholic should be convinced of his/her condition and then the treatment will be easy.

Alcohol can affect the body in many ways. The chronic consumption of alcohol leads to many problems, even to death. It also affects the spiritual and social life of the addict. In a family, if one is an addict, it may ruin their marital relationship. The partners may remain married but they lead relatively separate lives. The addict may work and spend much time with drinking or drug-using friends rather than at home. The non-dependent spouse is automatically forced to carry the full responsibility of the family. Children may feel rejected and unloved and they may develop emotional problems and sometimes they may develop bad habits like alcohol or drug use in order to overcome their problems. (5) The family of the addict loses its interest in family prayer. The family that prays together stays together. The families of the addicts neither pray together nor stay together. Disturbance and quarrels in the family are regular phenomena. This will not create the appropriate atmosphere for prayer and spiritual activities. It is quite usual that when a person gets interested in alcoholic or drug addiction, he/she neglects their spiritual life. They will not be interested neither in spiritual activities nor in sending their children and other family members to church.

God created humans in God's own image and likeness. So we are the representatives of God on earth. Addiction destroys God's image and likeness in us. If we want to live a good life we would have to stop taking drugs. Spirituality is the only source which can help the addicted to return to the original state. St. Paul says, "your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit" (1Cor.6:19). It is our responsibility to keep our body clean, so that the spirit of God will indwell in us and guide in all our problems. But the addicted persons make their bodies a place of pleasure and sin. In a theological sense, addiction can be understood as idolatry. Idolatry is worshipping idols or images instead of God. Here the addicted person is engaging in excessive attachment to the substance. Spirituality is the best way to cast out the false idol and return to the missed status. Each religious community can play an important role in recovering the addicts through mutual caring, accepting and respecting each one's dignity.


1. Dennis Thombs, Introduction to Addictive Behaviors, 3rd edition, (New York: The Guilford Press, 2006), 141.

2. Thombs, Introduction to Addictive Behaviors, 4-6

3. Thombs, Introduction to Addictive Behaviors, 21

4. Katherine Ketcham and William Asbury, Beyond the Influence: Understanding and Defeating Alcoholism (Bantam Books, 2000), 45

5. Thombs, Introduction to Addictive Behaviors, 3rd edition, 195

Exploring the Long Term Effects of Drug Addiction

by Sean Callahan

Drug addiction can cause many health issues and, long term drug abuse especially, can really strain a person’s body. Long term addiction can cause lasting physical and emotional issues that can affect many aspects of life. Short term drug addiction can also cause serious health and other issues and anyone suffering from a short or long term addiction should seek the help of a qualified professional in attending rehab and getting clean.

Psychological Effects of Addiction

Long term drug use can cause a number of serious psychological issues. The conditions that can arise may range from mild to serious and can have major impacts on the life of the addicted individual. The most common psychological effects of long term drug use include:


Many drug addicts report feeling paranoid when using, likely stemming from the fact that drug use is illegal. Addicts tend to become more and more paranoid over time as they continue using drugs.


When a person uses drugs, they begin to build up a tolerance and over time it takes increasing amounts of the substance to achieve a high. When the person is unable to achieve the high they are after they can become depressed. Feelings of shame and remorse can also cause addicts to suffer from chronic depression. Depression unfortunately tends to lead to a continued cycle of addiction, as the more depressed an addict feels, the more likely they are to continue using drugs.


Many drug users will feel anxious and unsettled and may have trouble staying focused or sitting still for any long period of time. Drug induced anxiety can cause issues with work performance, relationships, and more.

Physical Effects of Addiction

Along with all of the long term psychological effects of addiction, there are also physical effects. Long term addicts often face many health issues as the drug or alcohol use begins to destroy the body. Some of the physical effects of long term drug use include:

The Liver

It is well known that alcohol abuse can cause serious issues with the liver but liver failure can also occur in those abusing other drugs. For instance, for those that use substances such as Oxycontin and Vicoden for many years habitually, there is a serious risk of liver failure.

The Kidneys

Kidneys can also be affected by long term drug or alcohol use. Over many years, the kidneys will become damaged. Kidney failure can be common among long term users of drugs such as heroin, and crystal meth, among others.

The Lungs

Anyone who smokes and inhales drugs are putting their lungs at increased risk of serious health issues. Smoking drugs such as crystal meth and crack cocaine can have effects on the lungs similar to those of long term nicotine use.

The Heart

Addicts that use stimulants such as cocaine can cause major damage to the heart. One of the most common effects of long term drug use is heart disease and heart failure.

In addition to the physical and psychological effects of long term drug addiction, addicts are at constant risk of suffering from an overdose. Long term users build up a tolerance to drugs, leading them to use increasingly large amounts. This can lead to an increased risk of overdose which can ultimately lead to death. In order to preserve their health, it is important for anyone suffering from a drug addiction to seek help in order to become sober.

Copyright © 2015 Addiction Solutions of Florida. All rights Reserved.
Used with Permission

Ten Helpful Life-Saving Facts About Addiction

By Cathy Taughinbaugh

Think less about getting your loved one to admit to an addiction and more about what it takes to build a better life.
- Carrie Wilkens, Ph.D.

Are you concerned about your child because of their drug or alcohol use?

Would a deeper understanding of addiction be helpful for you?

The scientific understanding of addiction is relatively new. So much about drug and alcohol use is based on a person's beliefs, and not scientific research. So, it's not surprising that myths about addiction are commonplace.

Family members are left wondering why someone who is suffering negative consequences, because of their substance abuse, is unwilling to change. Substance use is devastating for parents to watch and try to understand.

There are no two ways around it, addiction causes pain, frustration, anger, and fear for family members. However, the more information about addiction you have, the less stuck and helpless you will feel.

Understanding the truth about addiction will help you be more equipped to support your child in a healthy way. You will also feel less stressed and anxious. It critical to learn as much as you can about addiction if you are concerned about a loved one.

Addiction, defined by Webster's Dictionary is a "compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal."

This definition does not encompass other addictions or compulsive behavior such as gambling, food, or sex addiction. However, it gives a base line for considering addiction when it comes to drug or alcohol use.

No one is immune to addiction. No matter how smart or athletic your teen or young adult is, they are at risk if they start using substances. Drug use or alcohol misuse is a serious cry for help. Shaming or embarrassing your child only adds to the problem.

Substance use often begins in the teen years through partying with friends, accompanied by peer pressure to fit in. It can also start with a prescription given by a doctor for pain from an injury. The person finds the medication more and more appealing until they find that they can't live without it. Prescription medication abuse can lead to heroin use, because it is so much cheaper to buy when you are using drugs daily.

We live in a culture that promotes prescription drug and alcohol use. Yet, society looks down on people when they have addiction problems. Too often, people with substance use issues are thought of as lazy, weak-willed, or someone whose morals are flawed.

In addition, rather than encourage change, labeling a person an "addict" tends to bring on more shame and have a negative connotation. People associate the word "addict" with being a liar, irresponsible, dangerous, and in denial about their substance use problem.

Likewise, there has been a common and traditional belief that there is only one answer to addiction. The answer is total abstinence. Studies are showing however, that especially for young people, the idea of one solution is a deterrent to their being willing to get help for their drug use.

We now know that one size for addiction does not fit all. There are many ways to find recovery or manage your life in a better way. Positive change does not need to look the same for every person.

Some of the risk factors for addiction are early use, genetics, mental health issues, environment, and early childhood trauma. However, why a person feels it makes sense for them to use drugs or alcohol can be complicated and diverse.

Understanding, compassion, kindness, as well as research-based approaches can give you the best chance of motivating your child or loved one to want to change.

Here are 10 myths and facts about addiction:

MYTH 1: Addicts and alcoholics need to reach rockbottom before they can accept help.

FACT: That is absolutely wrong. There is no evidence that that's true. In fact, quite the contrary, "the earlier in the addiction process that you can intervene and get someone help, the more they have to live for. The more they have to get better for." – Dr. Kathleen Brady, a professor at the Medical University of South Carolina.

MYTH 2: Addiction is a willpower problem. People can stop, if they really want to.

FACT: Virtually no one wants alcohol/drug treatment. A person starts out as an occasional drug user, and that is a voluntary decision. But as time passes, something happens, and that person goes from being a voluntary drug user to being a compulsive drug user. Over time, continued use of addictive drugs changes your brain — some times in dramatic, toxic ways, at other times in more subtle ways, but virtually always in ways that result in compulsive and even uncontrollable use.

MYTH 3: Addicts are bad, crazy, or stupid. These people just have a character flaw.

FACT: Addiction is a brain disease. Evolving research shows that people with addiction issues are not bad people who need to get good, crazy people who need to get sane, or stupid people who need education. People with an addiction problem have a brain disease that goes beyond their use of drugs.

MYTH 4: Addicts should be punished, not treated, for using drugs.

FACT: Science is demonstrating that people with an addiction problem have a brain disease that causes them to have impaired control over their use. They need treatment for their changed brain chemistry, to learn to cope with triggers, and to learn to re-socialize without chemicals. Some people get into cycles of criminal behavior precisely because they must sustain their drug or alcohol use. Their bodies and brain tell them they will not survive without the substance.

MYTH 5: People don't need treatment. They can stop using if they really want to.

FACT: It is extremely difficult for people addicted to drugs to achieve and maintain long-term abstinence. Research shows that long-term alcohol and other drug use actually changes a person's brain function, causing them to crave the drug even more, making it increasingly difficult for the person to quit.

MYTH 6: Treatment just doesn't work.

FACT: Treatment can help people. Studies show drug treatment reduces drug use by 40 to 60 percent and can significantly decrease criminal activity during and after treatment. Treatment reduces the risk of HIV infection and improves the prospects for employment, with gains of up to 40 percent after treatment.

MYTH 7: People have to want treatment in order for it to be effective.

FACT: People who are forced into treatment do recover. Addicted people may be pushed to enter a treatment program in a number of ways. Employers may threaten to fire a person unless treated; a spouse may threaten to leave the relationship, or the court may offer treatment in lieu of prison. In fact, research has shown that the outcomes for those who are legally mandated to enter treatment can be as good as the outcomes for those who entered treatment voluntarily.

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the federal government's National Institute on Drug Abuse acknowledged that "even as an internationally respected researcher, she once believed that to be true. Volkow says, but she knows now that people who are forced into treatment do recover."

MYTH 8: Addicts who continue to abuse alcohol/drugs after treatment are hopeless.

FACT: Addiction is a chronic disorder; occasional relapse does not mean failure. Stress from work or family problems, social cues (i.e. meeting individuals from one's drug-using past), or their environment (i.e. encountering streets, objects, or even smells associated with alcohol or other drug use) can easily trigger a relapse. People in early recovery are most vulnerable to drug use during the few months immediately following their release from treatment.

MYTH 9: Addiction is treated behaviorally, so it must be a behavioral problem.

FACT: Addiction is a brain disease that can be treated by changing brain function, through several types of treatment. New brain scan studies are showing that behavioral treatments, counseling, and medications work similarly in changing brain function. New medications are being developed to help patients who have already become abstinent to further curb their craving for addicting drug and alcohol. These medications reduce the chances of relapse and enhance the effectiveness of existing therapies.

MYTH 10: Addicts can stop using/drinking simply by attending twelve step meetings or other clean and sober support, so they can't have a brain disease.

FACT: For most people, working a twelve step program is a life-long commitment. Twelve steps meetings don't work for everyone, even for many people who truly want to stop drinking/using. Some people require more structure in their work and living environments. On the basis of research, we know that a support system of people with a common experience is one of the active ingredients of recovery.

*Adapted from the following:

Myths of Addiction. Carlton K. Erickson, Ph.D., University of Texas
Addiction Science, SAMHSA, NIDA and Join Together, Partnership for a Drug Free America 2006

SOURCES (unless otherwise noted):

Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide. (October 1999).
National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Health;
Alan I. Leshner, Ph.D., former Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (2001)


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