For centuries, Christian leaders have sought to build the faith of those who are hurting and troubled. Offering helpful guidance and support, this “care of souls” typically focuses on spiritual matters, but also brings relief in physical, mental and emotional struggles.
Acknowledging the positive role of religion and spirituality in helping people is not merely historic trivia. There is a growing body of evidence that demonstrates the power of a faith-based approach for preventing and treating substance abuse.
Faith Empowers Recovery
Treatment programs that do not ignore the spiritual aspects of recovery seem to have distinct advantages over those based purely on science. An in-depth study from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that God, religion and spirituality are key factors for many individuals in effectively dealing with substance abuse and in their continuing recovery.
For the religious person, faith involves belief and trust in God and the doctrines or scriptures of their particular religion. The faith-based approach to treatment emphasizes the importance of these elements and seeks to incorporate them accordingly. For example, recovery from addiction often begins with the need to place faith in treatment personnel, recovering peers or a power greater than one’s self.
The values that are important to people of faith are operative in bringing about real psychological and emotional change. It’s no coincidence that things like unconditional love, acceptance, self-respect, forgiveness and community often form the core of effective treatment and recovery programs.
The particular mechanisms by which faith produces such potent results in treatment, recovery and ongoing sobriety are still being studied, but the benefits provided by faith and spirituality to empower an effective recovery are well-known and undeniable.
Faith Lowers Risk
The influence of religion not only aids those recovering from substance abuse but also has enormous potential for lowering the initial risk of substance abuse among teens and adults.
The deep convictions arising from personal faith profoundly affect how individuals respond and cope with life’s challenges. This, in turn, has a strong positive effect on preventing the behaviors often associated with alcohol or drug abuse.
Additionally, particular religious doctrines that prohibit alcohol or drug use have been shown to lower the rates of substance abuse and dependence among individuals who subscribe to such beliefs.
Consider the following statistics:
Adults who do not consider religious beliefs important are:
- One and half times more likely to smoke
- Three times more likely to binge drink
- Six times more likely to smoke pot
- Nearly four times more likely to use an illicit drug other than marijuana
Adults who never attend religious services are:
Although religious people still struggle with various addictions, these statistics illustrate the power of faith to lower the risks of engaging in abusive behaviors.
Faith Encourages Personal Change
Different recovery programs incorporate faith-based elements in unique ways. But the majority of them recognize similar benefits from the religious components of treatment.
Some of the common benefits that a person may experience from treatment that emphasizes a spiritual approach include:
- Newfound happiness and freedom
- Serenity and a new world outlook
- Less selfish behavior
- The ability to help others and feel useful
- No longer regretting past decisions
- Having the ability to handle any particular situation
- Letting go of feelings of self-pity
These types of changes and more can form a strong foundation for ongoing success and long-term sobriety.
America is the most medically advanced country in the world. Our physicians are highly trained and have access to sophisticated treatments and equipment as well as impressive research and care facilities.
Yet science and religion are not opposing forces in the world of substance abuse treatment. By combining the best of both worlds, individuals are provided with powerful resources to enable and sustain their recovery. For helping to ease suffering, encouraging real change and sustaining progress, there is much to commend the place of God, faith and religion as a powerful ally in substance abuse treatment.