Help for addicts

The ABCs of Biotech for Christians - Sixteenth in a series - O is for Opiates

In the wizard of Oz, poppy fields nearly prevented Dorothy from reaching the Emerald City, but the good witch Glinda brought snow to cover its narcotic effects. What can bring the snow today to reverse the opioid epidemic? Biotechnicians are at work to discover the answer. And some nontechnical ways may help us as well.

First, let us consider that Oz was not where Dorothy and her companions found help for their ailments and dilemmas. She only had to believe that “There’s no place like home” before she could actually wake up and be happy to be home.

Likewise, for the individual seeking relief from addiction, whether from an illegal drug like heroin or from a legal one like oxycontin, there needs to be a belief, a firmly held conviction, that home is best. The vacation or escape from the base of ones true contentment must be viewed for what it is: flight.

Many people have no happy home, that is, they do not know Christ. No matter where they live, their home is not a comfortable place. Perhaps they have never known the love of parents, or maybe they suffer from fleshly pursuits, a Christian concept that recognizes man is a sinful creature who can only be free from destructive ways through daily walking with the Lord, empowered by His Spirit.

Pain is not the worst enemy in the world. The lack of having a friend with us, Jesus, to endure whatever comes is far, far worse.

It is good to make use of medicines to manage pain, or to have a brief vacation from the press of responsibilities and concerns, but should we pursue means that take over our will, then we will swoon in that poppy field until deliverance comes.

Perhaps that deliverance will come from a supernatural intervention, nevertheless, without an understanding that one needs to be home, that is, in right relation with the Father, there will be other escapades or misguided journeys to discover what is missing.

Addiction, as an obstacle, is the false promise of relief, whether from physical or emotional pain or discomfort. Indulgence in pain relief (on the scale of addiction) is pursuit of a short-term solution, but the addict must first of all start to think LONG-TERM. Long-term is what matters. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Mat 16:26) And without a doubt, what we are talking about as we address the topic of opiates, is the war for the soul.

Let's think now about solutions for opioid addiction and biotech. As you would imagine, biotech is researching the DNA of the poppy, but maybe it would surprise you to know that the reason for this, in one study, was to determine what area of the world the opium came from. In this way, law enforcement can focus their efforts efficiently. “Source information may provide valuable intelligence leading to the interruption of this terror-funding stream or other illegal activities.”

Biotech is also involved in manufacturing drugs that are not possible for laypeople to replicate. Researchers in Japan have tweaked the genes of the E-coli bacteria to pump out a substance that can be modified to make painkillers. "Four strains of genetically modified E. coli are necessary to turn sugar into thebaine... E. coli are more difficult to manage and require expertise in handling. This should serve as a deterrent to unregulated production."

Discovering that clearing out old cells, “senescent” cells, helps to prevent joint degradation and promote renewal in mouse joints, can lead to medicines that will do this for humans. Pain relief for those with osteoarthritis is in the works.

There is also work toward relieving post-surgery pain with a drug that would be an alternative to addictive opioids, a sustained-delivery formulation of buivacaine. This new drug “combines aspects of biology, medicinal chemistry and polymer science to allow for the precise engineering of drug particles in various compositions, sizes and shapes” and would provide “an effect consistent with a local anesthetic effect lasting for three or more days.”

While waiting for these new drugs to reach the marketplace, there are also natural means of help for addicts and those with chronic pain.

Scientists have studied the effects of Persian Carum Coptic fruit and Rose of Damascus essential oil on morphine withdrawal in mice and found that their biological effects are useful for this process.

Dark chocolate helps the heart via opioid receptor activation. Natural highs gained through some foods and through exercise are safe to enjoy, in moderation.

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...and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind ... the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind ...the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. -Genesis 1

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Flesh and Bone and The Protestant Conscience is an e-book on Amazon.com. It is 99¢ and in the Amazon lending library as well. The book description follows.

Would you let your conscience be your guide?

Does God care if the skin and bone of the dead are passed along to the living for medical uses? Is organ donation OK with God? Should you sign a Living Will?

Did you know that dead organ donors are often anesthetized before their organs are removed? Do you know the current definition of death? The conscience cannot function without facts.

As we ponder the ethics of in vitro fertilization, stem cell research and man-made chimeras, our thoughts trail off. How then should we live? (Ez 33:10)

How should a Christian think about euthanasia by starvation when doctors and the state attorney general all agree it is time to withhold feeding from a brain injured patient? Some things are family matters, but someday it may be our family.

Here is a small book to help you think about whether you want to sign your driver's license, donate a kidney, cremate your loved one, and many other practical questions that may arise in the course of your healthcare decisions or watch over others.

It offers a special focus on the doctrine of the Resurrection that is related to such decisions. Sunday School classes and Bible Study groups could use this book to facilitate discussion about the issues covered.