Drug Abuse, Addiction and the many woes of man – Islam’s View


By Barakat Giwa-Akinsiku

A drug is scientifically said to be any substance other than food which by its chemical nature affects the processes or function of a living organism. Most drugs are used as medicines while others have no medicinal value at all. Drugs range from legal, over the counter drugs commonly prescribed by physicians to illegal ones such as heroin, cocaine and hashish. Of recent, marijuana has been approved for recreational and medical use in some parts of the United States thereby attaining legal status as alcohol and nicotine which have widespread acceptance in most countries around the world.

Drugs are an integral part of our social and economic life. Billions of dollars are spent yearly all over the world to combat the menace of illegal drugs. Countless prescriptions of legal drugs (over the counter drugs) are written by physicians for the cure of one malady or the other and consumers spend millions of dollars on procuring same. The healthcare costs of tobacco use are staggering with more people having lung diseases and cancer daily. In the United States of America, annually twenty three billion dollars is spent on medical costs for tobacco-related diseases while thirty billion dollars is lost due to loss of work time and decreased productivity from the effects of smoking (1) The story is no different in other countries with the lean purses of the third world countries being further depleted by the malady. Alcohol though a booming industry with worldwide acceptance presents a similar story of woe all over the world.

It is most unfortunate that alcohol use and tobacco smoking is legalized and encouraged in many countries with Marijuana gradually making an inroad. This treatise aims at pointing out their ill effects as well as that of other illegal drugs on the society.
Drug abuse refers to taking a drug for a purpose other than which it was intended for or the excessive consumption of a drug. Drug addiction is the compulsive use of a drug, loss of control over its use and its continued use despite its adverse consequences. The states of addiction include psychological dependence (the desire or need grows to a desperate craving for the drug) and physical dependence (distinctive withdrawal symptoms appear shortly after the drug abuser stops taking the drugs).

The effects of drug abuse are not in any way beneficial. An increase in heart rate and peripheral resistance leads to an increased blood pressure. Its withdrawal symptoms are even more tragic to watch. The addicts trash around, are anxious, confused and restless, have slurred speech and in some cases commit suicide.

The plant kingdom remains the biggest source of drugs with most drugs being synthesized from different species of plants. Other drugs like antibiotics are obtained from microorganisms. Hard drugs are mostly synthesized from plants such as opium and cannabis sativa while ethyl alcohol (alcohol in beer) is obtained from the fermentation of sugars that occur naturally in cereal and barley fruits.

Man is said to be the highest animal created by God. Even the angels were told to serve him. Invertebrates, other mammals and plants are thus subjugated for his use. We read from the Holy Qur’an thus

And He has subjected to you
Whatever is in the heavens and
Whatever is in the earth; all this
Is from Him. In that surely are
Signs for a people who reflect (2)


Have you not seen that Allah
Has pressed for you into service
Whatever is in the Heavens and
Whatever is in the earth and has
Completed His favour on you both
Externally and internally (3)

So, what went wrong? Why is the highest animal (man) subjected to such ridicule by chemicals extracted from plants over which he has dominion? What went wrong is that in refusing to follow the guidance Allah, man has brought this woe onto himself. Almighty Allah has admonished man on how to develop his faculties, what to administer to himself and what not. It is said in the Holy Qur’an;

O ye men, eat of what is lawful
And good in the earth and follow
Not the footsteps of Satan, surely
He is to you an open enemy (4)

I shall be quick to point out here that ‘eat’ as used in the above verse does not necessarily mean to ‘eat food’ since drugs aren’t food. Regarding food, Almighty Allah says

Forbidden to you is the flesh
Of an animal which dies of itself,
Blood, flesh of swine, that on which
Is invoked the name of any other
Than Allah, that which has been
Strangled, that which is beaten to death
And that killed by a fall,
Gored to death or that which a
Wild animal has eaten part of (5)

The reader must be familiar by now with various contexts in which the word ‘eat’ is used in English Language. A few examples are given; “Is something eating at you?” The old car sure eats up fuel; The bike soon ate up the miles etc. Hence eat as used in the Holy Qur’an does not necessarily mean to eat food but to use up something such as drugs.
A deep reflection over the above mentioned verses brings to light once more the deep wisdom contained in the Holy Qur’an. Man is enjoined to eat of what is ‘good and lawful.’ As I pointed out earlier, some drugs such as nicotine and alcohol are legal in most countries and by those countries standards are lawful. But are they good? Certainly not! One need not be a doctor to know the adverse effects of cigarette smoking and alcohol indulgence on the body. Regarding alcohol, there is another verse in the Holy Qur’an, which states;

O ye who believe! Wine and the
Game of hazard and divining
Arrows are an abomination of Satan’s
Handiwork. So shun each of them
That you may prosper (6)


They ask thee concerning wine (alcohol)
And the game of chance. Say in both,
There is great sin and harm and also
Some advantage for men. But their
Sin and harm are greater than their
Advantage (7)

According to the above, the use of alcoholic wine is forbidden even though they possess some advantage. How is this? First, an introduction to the compound alcohol.
Alcohols are a group of organic compounds, many of which are ingredients in perfumes, tinctures, paints and some other products. They are also essential to many manufacturing processes and sterilization of surgical equipment. The form of alcohol in the beverages we drink is called ethyl alcohol (ethanol), a colourless liquid that in its pure undiluted form has a biting or burning taste. It is produced by the fermentation of sugars that occur naturally in cereals and fruits such as barley and grapes.
So what are its advantages? Alcohol has been purported to have some medicinal value and has been used as medicine over the ages though its medicinal value is yet to be scientifically proven. In addition, alcohol is more than a drug. Technically it is also a type of food because it provides calories (slightly less than the number of calories per gram found in fat. When taken on an empty stomach, alcohol is absorbed into the small intestine and metabolized in the liver to generate fuel for the body’s use. Beer or sweet wines have additional calories from their sugar or carbohydrate content. In addition, alcohol (brandy) is used in the preservation of bakery products and is also a component of cough mixtures. The food value of alcohol is however limited because its calories are ‘empty’ providing no proteins, vitamins or minerals.
The disadvantages of alcohol far outweigh its advantages as stated in the Holy Qur’an. When taken excessively on a full stomach, its absorption into the stomach is impaired hence it is absorbed into the blood and distributed into the body fluids. This accounts for its intoxicating effects. Like an anesthetic, alcohol gradually and progressively depresses the brain function and the nervous system. In the advanced stage of drunkenness, the intellectual and process of judgement and control are suspended. Alcohol also lessens the life span.
The close relationship between alcoholism and crime is well known. There is universal testimony as to the relationship between excessive drinking and breaches of moral law and the law of the state. This is a direct consequence of the paralysis of the higher intellectual and moral faculties and the resulting free-play given to lower inclinations. Excessive alcohol intake also leads to acute liver damage and has broken up many homes.
Nicotine is the substance of tobacco and cigarettes. It is an addictive drug that provokes an addictive response in regular smokers. It is also a legal drug but medical evidence shows that it is quite hazardous to health. Although the Holy Qur’an doesn’t directly forbids its use together with other hard drugs, it still prohibits its use as can be deduced from the following verse-

O ye who believe, eat of the
Good things we have provided
for you and render thanks to
Allah if it is He whom you
Really worship

The injunction ‘eat of the good (pure and wholesome things) indicates that Muslims are not allowed to use things which may in any way injure their physical, moral or spiritual health though they may be allowed by the Shariah- that is if the law is silent about them(such as smoking and the use of hard drugs)
Hence those Muslims who smoke cigarettes under the guise that the Qur’an doesn’t directly forbid its use should take heed. Almighty Allah warns in Chapter 16vs117 of the Holy Qur’an;

And say not because of the falsehood
Which your tongues utter- this is lawful
And this is unlawful so as to be of
Of those who forge lies against Allah
Surely those who forge lies against
Allah does not prosper

In any case, smoking is not beneficial to their health and they have nothing to lose by abstaining. Smoking kills more people than other vices like cocaine, heroin and alcohol abuse combined together. It is the largest single avoidable cause of ill-health and premature mortality in the world accounting for an estimated two and a half million deaths a year from smoking related diseases. It is also responsible for 1 in 4 UK cancer deaths (9)
Smoking causes lung and heart damage, contributing substantially to the development of arteriosclerosis which affects heart and peripheral blood vessels. It is also implicated as a cause or is associated with other diseases like stroke, heart failure, cancer of the larynx, oral cavity, oesophagus, urinary, pancreas and uterine cervical cancer.
Nicotine in tobacco smoke acts on the adrenal glands, causing them to secrete hormones that temporarily increase blood pressure and heart rate which makes the heart work harder. Smoking also increases the clumping of certain blood cells (platelets) which contribute to the deposition of cholesterol in the arteries. Smoking decreases the sense of smell and taste, which makes eating food less enjoyable. It also impairs the healing of peptic ulcers.
The most popular illegal drug around the world is Marijuana which has also recorded the feat of attaining legal status in the American States of Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon. Cultivation and trade in Marijuana is currently the fastest growing industry in the United States with a 74% growth recorded in 2014 as figures grew from $1.5b in 2013 to $2.7b in 2014 (10)

Marijuana is obtained from the hemp plant (cannabis sativa). Hashish, a stronger variant is also prepared from the plant. Marijuana contains more than four hundred chemicals, the most important of which is Tetrahydrocannabino (THC). Tetrahydrocannabino is what gets someone ‘stoned.’ Marijuana is gotten from the leaves and tops of the hemp plant. When smoked, THC is absorbed and gives a relaxing ‘high’ feeling. Although the ‘high’ will subside, many of the negative effects may linger for up to 6 after it has been inhaled.
Marijuana contains the fungus Aspergillus which causes serious lung infections. Marijuana is also occasionally contaminated by animal droppings containing Salmonella bacterium either at the time of drying or during storage. Salmonella causes diarrhoea, abdominal pain and fever. Harmful effects of Marijuana include an increased risk of heart attack and stroke in adults with cardiovascular diseases as well as acute psychotic episodes in people with a history of schizophrenia.

Another widely used illegal drug is cocaine. Drug users eagerly seek it because it sharply increases alertness and creates a sense of euphoria. These effects are the basis of the profound psychological dependence associated with the drug. Cocaine dilates the pupils and accelerates the heart and respiratory rates.

It also causes a slight rise in body temperature. These effects are short term. They reach their peak in about 15-20 minutes and dissipate in approximately an hour. Unwanted effects are persistent restlessness, anxiety, sleeplessness, heart attack (due to the intensity of the high) and the risk of HIV-AIDS infection from injecting the cocaine by sharing hypodermic needles. Sniffing the cocaine also causes stuffy nose and colds.

In conclusion, the ‘highs’ produced by the hard drugs aid aggressive behaviour and are used by criminals before going on a heist. They also aid civil strife. A practical example is that of child soldiers and rebels in several war torn African countries needing to get ‘stoned’ before carrying out nefarious activities in a bid to overthrow their government.
It can thus be concluded that hard drugs lead to an increase in crime rate, suicide rate and juvenile delinquencies. The war against hard drugs is one of the biggest wars being waged by governments around the world with penalties as high as death being the punitive actions for drug traffickers in at least 33 countries around the world top of which include China, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore(11)

However, the increase in the incidence of drug abuse indicates a not so big dent in the fight against drug abuse and trafficking. What then is the way forward? Banning the cultivation of plants that yield hard drugs will be one big step and cracking down on drug barons another. No doubt most governments are already doing this but efforts need to be intensified. In addition governments of countries where alcohol, marijuana and nicotine have been legalized would be wise to review their decisions. It will be hard no doubt and public resistance a high possibility but educating their citizenry about the harmful effects of such drugs will help in curbing to some extent the outcry. Above all, the fear of Almighty Allah, the love and worship of Him which includes obeying His laid down injunctions shall be a way of permanently curbing this malady.

All praise belongs to Almighty Allah, the most High and the most Wise

1. Larson D.E. (ED) Mayo Clinic Family Health Book. (New York: Williams Morrow and Company Inc.1990) pp 417- 418
2. Holy Qur’an, Surah Aal Jathiyah, Verse 14
3. Holy Qur’an, Surah Luqman, Verse 21
4. Holy Qur’an, Surah Baqarah, Verse 169
5. Holy Qur’an, Surah Maidah, Verse 4
6. Holy Qur’an, Surah Maidah, Verse 91
7. Holy Qur’an, Surah Baqarah, Verse 91
8. Holy Qur’an, Surah Baqarah, Verse 173
9. Smoking and Cancer Research, www.cancerresearchuk.org
10. Matt Ferner Legal Marijuana is the fastest growing Industry in the US Huffington Post (January 28th 2015)
11. Patrick Gallahue and Rick Lines The Death Penalty for Drug Offences: Global Overview (London: Harm Reduction International Press, 2015) pp 5-6