People in ancient Greece used wine, as well as drugs made from opium, hemp, and different flowers, to become “intoxicated.” On this basis, we must conclude that persons today who habitually use narcotics to become “intoxicated” must be put in the same group as drunkards (1 Corinthians 5:10), and they may be disfellowshipped. But we should note that addiction to drugs is not a disfellowshipping offense according to the Bible.
Of the millions of drug addicts in the world, some have been Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some of these want to quit the drug habit and become reinstated into a congregation of JW. It is extremely difficult to quit the habit when one is addicted to hard drugs. But in the US, 100,000 persons have managed to do this with the help of methadone. This is a synthetic opioid, and it lessens the painful symptoms of opiate withdrawal and blocks the euphoric effect of opiate drugs. This means that by the use of methadone, a person does not become “intoxicated.” In Norway, a person using methadone is allowed to drive a car.
In spite of the fact that methadone has no intoxicating effect like alcohol, the GB in 1973 stated that the use of methadone was a disfellowshipping offense and that no one who was on a methadone program after having quit hard drugs could be reinstated. This standpoint was reiterated in 2003. These decisions were cruel and inhuman and evidently prevented thousands of previous Witnesses from quitting their drug habit.
In 2013, the decision was reversed, and the use of methadone in a rehabilitating program was no longer viewed as a disfellowshipping offense. This was not written in a letter to the congregations. But only by contacting the Service Department will a person be informed of the reversed viewpoint of the GB. There is a strong burden of responsibility on the shoulders of the members of the GB because their arbitrary decisions have prevented so many sincere persons from winning their fight against drug addiction.
There are millions of drug addicts in the world, and some of these have been members of a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses but have been disfellowshipped if they are permeated by drug abuse. Drug addiction per se is not a disfellowshipping offense according to the Bible. By “addiction” I mean that a person is physically or mentally addicted to some drug. For example, some persons with chronic acute pain have become addicted to painkillers. And this evidently is the case with a great number of Witnesses because chronic pain is so widespread. Many of these have died, and because of this, the members of the GB have bloodguilt.
There are millions of drug addicts in the world, and some of these have been members of a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses but have been disfellowshipped. Drug addiction per se is not a disfellowshipping offense according to the Bible. By “addiction” I mean that a person is physically or mentally addicted to some drug. For example, some persons with chronic acute pain have become addicted to painkillers. And this evidently is the case with a great number of Witnesses because chronic pain is so widespread.
INTOXICATION BY DRUGS IS SIMILAR TO INTOXICATION BY ALCOHOL
According to 1 Corinthians 6:10 a drunkard, one who habitually gets drunk, deserves to be disfellowshipped. In the ancient world, there were other means to “get drunk” than by wine, for example by the use of the plant Henbane (hyoscyamus niger). An article discussing how ancient people used and abused drugs says regarding the use of Henbane:
Pliny described the effects of this plant as similar to drunkenness, when either breathed as smoke or ingested. It was typically taken as part of a cocktail of hallucinogenics for magical or medicinal purposes.
The article also says:
There were more than a dozen ways of altering reality in the ancient world of the Mediterranean, but two drugs dominated – opium and hemp…There is a highly suggestive passage in Homer’s The Odyssey, in which Helen of Troy dopes wine with a drug “that took away painful memories and the bite of pain and anger. Those who took this drug dissolved in wine could not shed a tear even at the death of a parent. Indeed not even if his brother or son were put to the sword before his eyes”.
Modern drugs made from opium, such as heroin and fentanyl can make persons “intoxicated” in a way similar to alcohol. So we cannot escape the conclusion that the habitual users of these drugs who become “intoxicated” must be put in the same group the Bible classifies as “drunkards.”
METHADONE CAN HELP PERSONS ON HARD DRUGS TO QUIT THEIR ADDICTION
I will now discuss how persons who are addicted to hard drugs may overcome this and become members of a congregation of JW. We keep in mind the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians chapters 5 and 6 that only persons who are permeated by the wrong actions mentioned must be disfellowshipped. For example, a person who is addicted to heroin is clearly permeated by this and therefore should be disfellowshipped. But what is necessary for one addicted to heroin to be reinstated? He or she must stop using heroin. But how can this be done? An article dealing with the issue said:
When people become addicted to heroin, they crave the drug so strongly that, even when they know what consequences they face as a result of their heroin use, they are unable to stay away from the drug. This makes relapse to heroin use incredibly likely after detox. Often, those struggling with heroin addiction experience multiple episodes of relapse on their road to recovery.
In some instances, methadone can help these people to avoid relapse. Since methadone works as a long-acting opioid, it fills the same opioid receptors in the brain that heroin and prescription painkillers do. As a result, when people are taking methadone as part of an addiction recovery program, they won’t experience cravings for heroin or the intense withdrawal symptoms associated with heroin withdrawal. This can allow those in treatment to fully focus on therapy, establishing a strong basis for recovery, without continually battling cravings and urges to relapse.
This quotation shows that it is extremely difficult to stop using heroin when one has become addicted. I have personally seen one example of this, and therefore I fully agree with the article. One alternative is methadone, and the article says that about 100,000 Americans who were addicted to heroin use methadone and live normal lives.
FOR 40 YEARS THE GB DENIED DRUG ADDICTS THE HELP THEY COULD GET FROM METHADONE
What has the GB said about methadone? The Watchtower of 1. June 1973, page 336, says:
But what of persons who may be on some government-sponsored program where controlled doses of a product (such as that known as methadone) are given in substitution for a more dangerous drug, like heroin? Persons on such government programs may say they are doing nothing ‘illegal’; that they do not experience the hallucinations so characteristic of drug addiction; that they are able to function as a ‘working part of society.’ What if they seek to become recognized, baptized members of the worldwide congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses? Should they be accepted for baptism?
These questions have come up for prayerful consideration. From the Bible’s viewpoint it appears clear that those on such programs do not Scripturally qualify, since they may rightly be considered as still addicted to drugs.
A letter from the Norwegian branch office to all bodies of elders of 3 August 2003 discussed persons who were using methadone in government-sponsored programs, and it says:
We write to you in connection with persons who use narcotics and who, under the control of the authorities, receives particular doses of, for example, methadone as a substitute for more dangerous narcotics such as heroin. The question is whether such a person can be on the theocratic ministry school, be an unbaptized publisher or be reinstated if he has been disfellowshipped or has disassociated himself. The answer is no. This is discussed in Vakttårnet for 1 oktober 1973 (pages 447-449, 451)— (The Watchtower of 1 June 1973, pages 336, 337)…
What is important is not whether the use of a drug, for example, methadone is legal, because it is a part of a program that the authorities have launched. From a biblical point of view, it is clear that those who use methadone, as mentioned above, still must be viewed as persons who are hooked on narcotics.
But what about a person who uses methadone as a painkiller or a sedative when this is prescribed by a doctor? A person to whom a doctor gives narcotics as a painkiller for a medical problem can hardly be said to be seeking intoxication.
As mentioned above, to be addicted to drugs is not, in itself, a disfellowshipping offense, according to the Bible. But to be a user of drugs to become “intoxicated” clearly is a disfellowshipping offense. Thousands of JW are addicted to drugs, for example, to pain killers containing morphine. But the use of such drugs is viewed as medical treatment. So the real situation is that the GB accepts that morphine can be used as medical treatment. But methadone, though not as strong as morphine, could not be used as medical treatment.
The last part of the quotation above shows the lack of knowledge of the members of the GB regarding the function of methadone. That the use of methadone as a painkiller is allowed because this use does not lead to intoxication implies that those who no longer are abusing hard drugs but using methadone do so to become intoxicated. But this clearly is incorrect because methadone does not cause intoxication.
We should also note that a Norwegian article discussing facts about methadone says: “One dose per day: small or no euphoric effect after the initial phase.” These words are confirmed by the fact that in Norway, persons using methadone are allowed to drive a car. But persons who have drunk one pint of beer are not allowed to drive a car.
Considering the whole situation, the decision of the GB is unquestionably extreme. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:13 that only wicked persons must be disfellowshipped. Persons who strive hard to get away from drug addiction are not wicked persons. Some were given painkillers by their doctors, and that led them to addiction of stronger drugs. Others were offered an “innocent” drug at a party, and that led to addiction. Now they want to live as normal persons. I have seen with my own eyes how extremely difficult it is to overcome such addiction without using methadone because it fills the same opioid receptors in the brain as heroin does. If the remedial use of methadone is discontinued, the craving for heroin will return. I am certain that thousands of persons who wanted to become reinstated over the years simply gave up because the GB decided that the use of methadone was wrong. This decision of the GB was inhuman and cruel indeed.
IN 2013 THE GB REVERSED COURSE AND ACCEPTED THAT DRUG ADDICTS COULD USE METHADONE
The conclusions in the letter from 2003, which is quoted above, were valid for ten more years. However, now the situation has changed. A letter from the Norwegian branch office to all bodies of elders of February 6, 2013, said that the 2003 letter forbidding the use of methadone should be deleted. But no new letter with instructions regarding the use of methadone was sent to the bodies of elders. A new system had now been introduced: two elders must make a telephone call to the Service Department at the branch office to get instructions. This is the case in a number of sensitive issues. By not putting the decisions of the GB in writing, these decisions would be more difficult to be used in court cases against the organization. Moreover, by introducing the retraction of the prohibition against the use of methadone in a covert way, the accountability and responsibility of the members of the GB of the death of a great number of Witnesses would neither be seen by the public nor by most Witnesses.
The present oral instruction from the Service Department regarding methadone is that a person who use methadone under medical supervision could be reinstated. In connection with the previous decision, The Watchtower uses the words “prayerful considerations,” indicating that Jehovah was behind the decision forbidding the use of methadone. However, now the members of the GB have made the opposite decision to accept that methadone can be used as medicine. This shows that the decisions made by the GB are human decisions, even though they continue under the delusion that Jehovah is directing their decisions.
. In the Publication Index 1930-1985 in the Watchtower Online Library, methadone is listed. But it is not listed in the Publication Index 1986-2020.
If one is addicted to hard drugs, it is extremely difficult to quit this addiction. Most persons who try to quit heroin relapse to heroin again. One substance that can help those who have been free from hard drugs for a short time is methadone. It is a long-acting opioid that fills the same opioid receptors in the brain that heroin and prescription painkillers do. Users will not be “intoxicated” by the use of methadone , and in Norway, a user is allowed to drive a car.
For 40 years, the GB prevented thousands of persons who had been Witnesses from quitting their addiction to hard drugs and live normal lives by forbidding the use of methadone. Witnesses who used methadone were disfellowshipped and those who were disfellowshipped would not be reinstated. Because the view was that a person who was disfellowshipped did not have a good relationship with Jehovah and would not live in his new order, the GB in reality, put themselves up as judges of other humans. The judgment of the GB was that these disfellowshipped persons would depart to everlasting annihilation. And the reason was the subjective view of the GB of a chemical, namely, methadone.
How bad this judgment of the GB was during the mentioned 40 years has been clear since 2013, when the GB changed the view of methadone and accepted that it was a medicine. There is a strong burden of responsibility and guilt on the shoulders of each member of the GB because they have prevented thousands of persons from getting a good relationship with Jehovah. Because many of these have died, the members of the GB may also have bloodguilt.