American Addicts

“For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved” (2 Peter 2:19).

Several months ago, we were all saddened to hear of the death of famous actor Matthew Perry. His acting skills and comedic brilliance were legendary in Hollywood. Perry battled various addictions for most of his adult life. For the last few years, he considered himself, and was considered by medical communities and therapists, to be “sober.” 

But was he?


The autopsy reported that Perry died of “acute effects of ketamine.” Ketamine is an anesthetic drug, often used to treat depression. The psychiatric meds used to treat depression are too many to list here. Many of them have become household names. Young children and teens are often medicated for showing symptoms of depression. 

And therein lies the dilemma. These drugs merely “treat” or manage symptoms. And while an argument can be made that Matthew Perry was better off on ketamine than drinking himself into oblivion, one has to wonder now whether that’s really true. We now replace one addiction with another, so-called safer addiction, and then call the man sober if he manages to function with a modicum of socially acceptable normalcy. 

We are literally medicating ourselves to death as a Nation. 

And we are a Nation of addicts. Or, to be more biblical, slaves. How many more will have to die before we change our ways? Mend our methods? Who or what can stop this Medical / Psychological Greed Machine?

While I am in no way arguing that medicine is never appropriate to treat various mental or emotional struggles, I am calling into question the worldview undergirding this model. The model sees everyone as a victim. Responsibility for the addiction is rarely, if ever, viewed as the addict’s fault. The usual long line of poor decisions leading up to the addiction are often not confronted. Talk therapy, group therapy, and self-esteem treatments merely tweak symptoms. Ditto for meds. It’s like pouring water on a grease fire. It may seem to be working at first, but shortly thereafter one finds the fire has spread. 

And why? Because the actual source of the fire has not been snuffed out. And God tells us the source of all our fires (struggles, problems, relational strains, etc.) is sin. In our hearts. In the very core of our being. Our minds and wills are corrupt. We don’t believe rightly. We don’t think rightly. We don’t want rightly. Therefore, we don’t act rightly. Our disorder traces to our sinful nature inherited from our first Dad, Adam. Sin in the heart always works itself out in our minds, wills, and bodies. Don’t take my word for it, read Genesis 6:5 and Isaiah 64:6-7 and Jeremiah 13:23 and Ephesians 2:1-3 and Titus 3:1-3. 

Perhaps most tellingly, Jesus said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:20-22). And Jesus said worry and anxiety stem from a lack of faith in God Almighty (see Matthew 6:25-34). 

The root of sin always produces the fruit of sinful thoughts, words and deeds (Matt 12:33-37). Meds and secular therapy are like spray-painting rotten apples drooping from a tree, and expecting that to make the tree healthy! 

But even Christian drug treatment centers and ministries have now bought into the secular worldview that claims all addictions are diseases, and must be viewed and treated as such. I recently read an article about the great “revival” happening in a drug treatment center in Kentucky. While I pray a genuine revival is occurring as God regenerates sinners and grants them repentance of sin and saving faith in Jesus Christ, I found it most concerning that this center demands any local church that partners with them “View addiction as a treatable disease, not a moral issue.” And this requirement was listed in an article appealing to Southern Baptist churches to consider partnering with this center! more 

Well, sadly, it won’t surprise me to hear of Baptist churches happily lining up to become cooperative partners with this organization. And while I want to celebrate God’s grace in healing and helping anyone move away from being enslaved to drugs or harmful substances or habits, I simply could not and would not compromise the biblical Doctrine of Total Depravity in order to partner with this ministry. 

How in the world have we gotten to the point where Christian churches and Christian believers abandon biblical fidelity in the name of compassion? Viewing addiction as merely, or even worse, solely, as a treatable disease, strips off the hope of the gospel. I know Christian proponents of the “treatable disease” view would argue otherwise, but I would humbly ask them a few questions:

  • How do you reconcile the “Disease / Victim” model with Scripture, especially explicit verses and passages that directly contradict it? 
  • Diseases are treated medically, so is that really the full and final cure addicts need? 
  • If addictions are not moral in nature, why does an addict need Jesus? 
  • Would this same philosophy apply to porn addicts? Sex addicts? Pedophiles? Cutters? 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we have got to stop making Jesus the sugary sprinkles on the top of our secular therapy ice cream sundae. 

If all addicts need are new behaviors, or better feelings, or increased self-esteem, or chemical imbalance tweaks, or easy targets onto which to shift the blame, then the Disease Model will work just fine. 

But if they are dead in their sins, hopelessly enslaved to their own lusts, incapable of pleasing God or doing good (Rom 1-3), then only the Gospel will do. Only the Gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone can free a slave and raise the dead (John 8:34-36; Col 2:13-14). 

“And I will give you a new heart . . . And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes” (Ezek 36:26-27). 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17).

“Neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Gal 6:15).

It is high time the Church of King Jesus stop healing people’s wounds lightly (Jer 6:14). 


by Keith McWhorter