As a young adult, I constantly feel the strain of needing to fit into society and for many other young people like me, the effects of this unabating pressure can become quite harmful if we find ourselves giving in. One such form of this problem arises from the ever-prevailing drug and drinking culture. As a result, those who find themselves misusing these substances can fall into the downward spiral of addiction that can be devastating not only for the individual but also for the wider society.
There is no doubt that substance and alcohol abuse are strife in society, impacting people of all ages, classes, and races. In the UK alone, drugs misuse is at an all-time high, affecting over 3.2 million people1 and unhealthy drinking habits has caused one of the highest rates of alcohol-specific deaths to be observed2.
Addiction comes with a host of damaging physical and mental effects to the user as the body becomes dependant on receiving a regular dose of the addictive substance to alleviate intense urges3. Without it, the user experiences compulsive drug-seeking behaviour to get relief from withdrawal symptoms. The ability to challenge and reverse these urges becomes harder and harder as drug dependence increases. Likewise, the negative effects of addiction spread to other aspects of life such as family relations, maintaining a job, finances, or other commitments. As a result, a huge financial strain is put on governments and healthcare systems in an effort to diminish substance abuse either through tackling illegal drug use or through providing treatments to curb addictions. Despite some successful strategies and therapies, addiction remains a fundamental problem.
The teachings of Islam have made it clear, that all forms of intoxicants are forbidden. One example of this command is stated in the following verses of the Holy Quran:
“O ye who believe! Wine and the game of hazard and idols and divining arrows are only an abomination of Satan’s handiwork. So shun each one of them that you may prosper. Satan desires only to create enmity and hatred among you by means of wine and the game of hazard, and to keep you back from the remembrance of Allah and from Prayer. But will you keep back? (Chapter 5, verse 91-92).4
The Arabic word ‘Khamar’ is used in this verse and in Islam, it refers to any substance that causes intoxication5. Using sedatives like alcohol or stimulative and hallucinogenic drugs affect the mind in such ways that our perception alters, and we are no longer in our full senses. One becomes physically and psychologically dependant on a trivial commodity, just to gain relief and temporary pleasures.
Unfortunately, being obsessed with something and not being able to live without it is an all too familiar sensation many of us feel. One of the most common, but not so apparent obsessions that have arisen in modern society as a result of excessive technology is the addiction to social media. At first social media may not be so obviously harmful but more and more research has highlighted that its effects on our behavior are substantial. Facebook recently came under fire for disputing its own research showing the harmful effects of its platform on adolescent mental health.
Like other forms of addiction, social media’s paralyzing effects can distract us from the truly important parts of our lives while instead, we worry about likes on a post or the fear of missing out. I’ve often found myself blindly scrolling through posts before I realize how many hours have flown by. I would argue, in such cases of excessive use, we become intoxicated in a way as we mindlessly pursue that which only provides temporary satisfaction and become a slave to our desires, almost like a drug addiction.
That is why Islam emphasizes that everything is better in moderation. Islam has put this guidance in place to protect us from the harmful effects of addiction and so that we can focus on our spiritual growth and remembrance of Allah the Almighty which is hindered when we are too absorbed in meeting our desires and gaining instant gratifications. Keeping our minds clear and pure not only enables us to but saves us from committing wrongs in a state of despair or disorientation.
So is there a detox? With all forms of addictions whether it’s social media, gambling, drug or alcohol use, temptations are everywhere so ensuring we stick to the limits we set for ourselves will require strong self-discipline. We must analyze whether our habits add any value to our lives or are a source of conflict, preventing us from finding true inner peace. The Head of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, explained that only through prayer, the remembrance of Allah, and spending in the way of others will enable us to find true contentment6. Perhaps utilizing these approaches and turning our attention towards God will enable those suffering from addiction, who may see no method to correct their habits, to see life through a different lens.
- Drug misuse in England and Wales: year ending March 2020 Report. Office for National Statistics. 9 December 2020
- Alcohol-specific deaths in the UK: registered in 2016. Office for National Statistics, 7 November 2017
- Understanding Drug Use and Addiction Drug Facts. National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 2018
- The Holy Quran. Chapter 5, verse 91-21
- Pathway to Paradise, A guidebook to Islam (1996). Womens’ Auxiliary, Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam Inc. U.S.A. Chapter 6
- Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad’s Concluding Address at the Lajna Imaillah National Ijtema 2021