Until 1924, heroin was a legal drug, produced by the same company that still gives us Bayer Aspirin today. It was used as a cough suppressant, and the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal in 1900 assured us that there was “no danger of acquiring a habit”. Yet, by the time heroin was outlawed, an estimated 98% of all drug addicts were addicted to it.
Until 1914, cocaine was sold over the counter, used for toothaches and other medicinal tonics. It was even used as a remedy for dandruff. Most people know that Coca-Cola got its name because when it was first produced, cocaine was one of the ingredients.
Morphine used to be marketed as a syrup to soothe teething in our youngsters, in a concentration of 65 mg per ounce. Today the average dose for a 140 pound adult is 10 mg.
Another old medicine ad shows that an “effective treatment” for asthma, hay fever, bad breath, and throat, mouth, or bronchial irritation was, of all things, cigarettes! The ad cautions that they are not recommended for children under six years of age, which implies that they were recommended for children age seven or older.
And until 1976, toothpaste and cough syrup, and other pharmaceuticals, had chloroform as an ingredient. Does all of this make you wonder what we’ll think a few years down the road, when we look back on the medicines we are using today?
The National Council on Patient Information and Education issued a fact sheet in 2003 that gives statistics on the prevalence of medications in our daily lives. According to the FDA, in 1999, Americans were buying approximately five billion over the counter drug products each year, and that it accounted for about 60% of total legal drug use in the nation, with the other 40% being prescription drugs. In that same year, we spent nearly 18 billion dollars on OTC medications. Actually it is far more than that, because the statistics cited specified that they did not include the sales figures from America’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart. There are more than 100,000 OTC drug products on the market today made up of about 1,000 significant active ingredients. Over-the-counter drugs, especially cough and cold medications, have become popular recreational drugs for our teenagers. These statistics don’t include the drugs of caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, all of which are widely used in America every day, as you well know.
So what does this have to do with religion, you may be asking? It might be helpful to look in a Greek dictionary to answer that question. The New Testament, especially the book of Revelation, repeatedly warns about “sorcerers” and “witchcraft”. Those two words come from the same Greek word, “pharmakia”, which should sound an awful lot like pharmacy, pharmacist, and pharmaceutical, since those English words derive from that same Greek word. In your Strong’s concordance, it is 5331. (Personally, I found it interesting that the word right next to it, 5330, is Pharisee, but I’ll leave you to draw your own inferences rather than chasing that rabbit trail in this article.)
Galatians 5 is a well known chapter of Scripture, giving us the Fruit of the Spirit in verses 22-23. Immediately prior to that, in verses 19-21, you will find a long list of Works of the Flesh. Verse 21 ends by telling us that “they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Included in this list, in verse 20, is “pharmakia” (translated here in King James as “witchcraft”). It is lumped right in there with adulterers and murderers.
Revelation 9:21, 18:23, 21:8, and 22:15 also contain this word. In order, they tell us that even after the plagues, many still have not repented of their sorceries; by sorceries were all nations deceived; sorcerers will see the second death in the lake of fire; and those outside the gates of the New Jerusalem include the sorcerers.
We tend to think of this word as an outdated term referring to ages past of witches casting spells, without relating it to an end-times issue. Meanwhile, we never stop to think that our constant bombardment of drugs into our bodies (and thus, our minds) may be keeping us from the clarity we need to rightly divide the Word of Truth (2 Tim 2:15). I’m not saying that pharmaceuticals do not have their place, but perhaps it should be a last resort after we first look to God’s way (herbs, prayer, fasting, laying on of hands, anointing, etc) instead of looking to the likes of heroin and cocaine.