Not What They Told You – Opioids

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: Titus 2:1-8


I.         Opioids are a class of drugs derived from opium

            A.        They include heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and many more

            B.        These were originally developed because they attach to the opioid receptors in your brain, muffling your perception of pain and increasing your feelings of pleasure.

                        1.         “At lower doses, opioids may make you feel sleepy, but higher doses can slow your breathing and heart rate, which can lead to death.” [Krieger].

                        2.         Abuse of these drugs have been rising and it has been shifting to a younger population.

            C.        Abuse is increasing

                        1.         Roughly a quarter of patients prescribed for chronic pain misuse them [“Opioid”]

                        2.         There has been a tripling of opioid prescriptions from 1991 to 2011 or from 76 million prescriptions to 219 million prescriptions [“Prescriptions”]. To put that in perspective, the US population is 325 million in 2018.

                        3.         No one wants to see a person suffer pain, but it appears that brakes have not been applied because money is being made.

            D.        How addiction results

                        1.         “More than half the risk for opioid abuse is genetic.” [Philadelphia]

                                    a.         In other words, some people are more prone to becoming addicted than others.

                        2.         “The feelings of pleasure that result from taking an opioid can make you want to continue experiencing those feelings, which may lead to addiction.” [Krieger]

                        3.         Within a few hours of stopping use, an addict experiences: [Drug Facts]

                                    a.         Restlessness,

                                    b.         Severe muscle and bone pain

                                    c.         Sleep problems

                                    d.         Diarrhea and vomiting

                                    e.         Cold flashes with goose bumps

                                    f.         Uncontrollable leg movements

                                    g.         Severe cravings for the drug

                        4.         I’ve been told that each time a person tries to withdraw, the symptoms, especially the pain, gets more severe.

                                    a.         “Once in withdrawal, users feel like their bones are breaking. They sweat and get chlls and shakes. The withdrawal itself doesn’t kill, but if addicts can’t persevere, they often go back to heroin” [Associated Press]

                                    b.         This again illustrates the problem. People use opioids for pain, but the withdrawal symptom is pain; thus, producing an endless cycle.

                                    c.         Meanwhile, money is being made off of that cycle, both legally and illegally.

                        5.         Also a tolerance builds up, so the user takes higher doses to reach lower “highs”. This eventually leads to overdosing.

            E.        Recent studies show that opioids actually alter the brain

                        1.         “We found more than 1,000 changes after exposure to an opioid-like drug, showing a global effect of these drugs on signaling in the brain.” [Philadelphia].

                        2.         With long term use (daily for several months), structures in the brain that allow one section of the brain to communicate with other sections disappear. “Losing the structures leads to ‘trouble reasoning and thinking through problems.’” [Philadelphia]

                        3.         “Nearly irresistible cravings begin steering behavior ... Specific triggers like old friends and familiar street corners can spur the urge to use again, as can general life stressors. And because of widespread brain changes ... those in addiction may have ‘limited ability to resist.’“ [Philadelphia]

            F.        Of concern recently is that fentanyl, which is 80 times more powerful than morphine, has been mixed with other drugs, leading to overdoses.

                        1.         Worse, fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin. It doesn’t have to be ingested.

II.        You’ll often hear that marijuana is not a gateway drug

            A.        This is oversimplifying the problem.

                        1.         The same reasons a person will use marijuana become the same excuses to use other drugs

                        2.         Marijuana is easier and cheaper to get a hold of, so it and alcohol often are the initial drugs used.

                        3.         But marijuana affects a person’s judgment, which makes them more likely to accept using other drugs.

                        4.         “They are easily induced into risky, impetuous and foolish behavior, such as acceptance of heroin, LSD, and other dangerous drugs, and homosexual experience, which are later regretted” [Russell]

                        5.         “Virtually all who became addicted to hard drugs started with marijuana, which distorted their judgment and put them into the drug scene.” [Lehmann]

            B.        Drugs are a gateway to many sins

                        1.         Lying

                                    a.         Lying becomes a habit for drug users as they vainly try to hide their addiction

                                    b.         Lying is something Christians have put aside - Ephesians 4:24-25

                        2.         Stealing

                                    a.         The money for drugs have to come from somewhere and they cost more than you can make - Ephesians 4:28

                                    b.         Here too is a problem. Drug abusers make horrible employees.

                        3.         Sexual sins

                                    a.         I know stories of people who were convinced to take a drug because it would make fornication more exciting.

                                    b.         One boy told me that he and his girlfriend were hooked on heroin, but he didn’t have money for another fix. He was so desperate that he agreed to do a homosexual act on the drug dealer just for another fix.

                        4.         Does this not sound like the drug scene? - I Timothy 1:9-10

III.       But drug use is wrong even before that

            A.        In the deeds of the flesh is sorcery - Galatians 5:19-21

                        1.         The word pharmakeia is the Greek word for medication. Many ancient acts of sorcery involved the use of drugs where the person under the influence thought they were experiencing magic.

                        2.         It is hinted in the use of mixed wines (wines mixed with hallucinogenic herbs) - Proverbs 23:29-33

                        3.         Notice again how this sounds like the drug scene - Revelation 22:15

            B.        Drugs ruin your judgment

                        1.         We need to be prepared and sober in order to be holy - I Peter 1:13-16

                        2.         Satan is just waiting for a chance to attack - I Peter 5:8-9

            C.        Drugs tempt you to sin in a variety of ways

                        1.         We need to guard our hearts and watch the way we go - Proverbs 4:23-27

                        2.         A prudent man hides from evil - Proverbs 22:3

            D.        Drugs ruin your self-control

                        1.         We have to discipline ourselves - I Corinthians 9:25-27

                        2.         God gave us a spirit of power, love, and self-control - II Timothy 1:7

                        3.         He taught us to live soberly and righteous - Titus 2:11-12

IV.      Excuses

            A.        I’m just there to be with my friends. I won’t use

                        1.         Drugs put you in the wrong crowd

                                    a.         “Research shows peer pressure (wanting to be part of the crowd) is the most likely reason people start using grass” [Janeczek]

                        2.         Some want to destroy others - Proverbs 4:14-17

                        3.         Bad company will corrupt you - I Corinthians 15:33

                        4.         We might just have to make the hard choices to reach heaven - Matthew 18:8-9

            B.        I can quit anytime

                        1.         The very fact that you haven’t and don’t, even when you know it is harmful, is telling

                        2.         All sins are hard to stop, but when a sin alters your mind, it becomes that much more difficult to end.

            C.        I’m not hurting anyone

                        1.         What about your family? What about those you steal from? What about those you lie to?

            D.        I’m not as bad as this other person

                        1.         Perhaps not yet, but you are heading in that direction

                        2.         But sinning, but not as often or not a strongly make you righteous?

                        3.         Morality is not measured by what other people do

            E.        No one can help me with this problem

                        1.         This is one of the biggest lies people tell themselves.

                        2.         There is help available. It is in the world in recovery centers, but more importantly it is in Christ - Romans 7:15-25

V.        The only way out is by stopping the drugs

            A.        The way to have the strength to stop is by giving your life to Christ - Galatians 2:20

Associated Press, “Obstacles to Sobriety,” Omaha World-Herald, 15 April 2014.

Drug Facts, “Heroin,” National Institute on Drug Abuse, June 2018.

Janeczek, Curtis L., “Marijuana: Time for a Closer Look”, 1980

Krieger, Carrie, Pharm.D., “What are opioids and why are they dangerous,” Mayo Clinic.

Lehmann, Walter X, M.D., “Marijuana Alert ... Enemy of Youth,” Reader’s Digest December 1979.

“Opioid Overdose Crisis,” National Institute on Health, March 2018

Philadelphia Inquirer, “How Opioids Reshape Your Brain,” Omaha World-Herald, 5 August 2018.

“Prescription Opioids and Heroin,” National Institute on Health, January 2018

Russell, G. K., Marijuana Today: Compilation of Medical Findings for the Layman, October 1979.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email