Just Say 'No!'
Let us recapitulate. The human being is a composite creature, comprised of a physical body and a “something else.” This “something else” is the ability to be master over one’s animalistic drives. All other living things cannot make choices between right and wrong, and act according to their innate drives. Professor Einstein considers a person who is totally motivated by one’s drive for physical gratification as no different than a swine. Anthropologists are a bit kinder, and consider man as homo sapiens, or “a baboon with intellect.” But neither hominoids nor pigs, even if they have intelligence, are yet true human beings, The feature that defines man and sets him apart from other forms of life is what we may refer to as the “spirit.”
The Talmud says that reshayim (wicked people) are considered as dead even when they are biologically alive (Berachos 18b). Reshayim are people who are dominated by the yetzer hara, the drive for physical gratification. Although they are biologically active, their spirit, the component which defines one as a human being, is dead. Clearly, this person is lacking an essential component of humanity.
A person who is lacking a part of his physical makeup, whether due to disease, genetic mishap or trauma, is a human being with a defect. This person can compensate for his deficiency. A blind person or a deaf person is aware of his defect, and blind or deaf people can be a full human being. Not so the person who lacks the essential feature of the spirit, who is unaware of his defect. He functions at a porcine or simian level, and it does not occur to him that he is in fact infra-human. Despite his intellect, he is fundamentally lacking in humanity. Yes, he is capable of having a porcine happiness, but not a true human happiness.
It has been said of those people who deny Divine creation, and ascribe to man as the end product of billions of years of evolution, that had they seen Rebbe Yisrael of Salant, they would have realized that man is qualitatively different from other forms of life because man. has a spirit.
Practicing mesiras nefesh enables a person to overcome the animalistic drives for self-gratification. If we can succeed in enabling our children to overcome the hedonistic “If it feels good, do it,” we may be able to prevent their succumbing to the lure of drugs.