Frequent Involvement in Spiritual Activities Helps Drug and Alcohol Treatment: Study

Frequent involvement in spiritual activities appears to help in the treatment of drug and alcohol abuse in young people, a new study suggests.

Previous studies have found young people who regularly attend religious services and consider themselves religious are less likely to try drugs and alcohol, according to The Wall Street Journal. The reasons could include support from congregations, religious instruction or the belief that using drugs and alcohol violates a person’s religious beliefs, the article notes.

The new findings, which will be published in May in Alcohol Treatment Quarterly, included 195 juvenile offenders. The researchers, from Baylor University and Case Western Reserve University, say fewer teens today are involved in religious organizations. In their study, the researchers found juvenile offenders appear to lack purpose, and feel they don’t fit in. At the same time, they have easy access to both prescription and illegal drugs.

Experts are divided about whether it is appropriate to include Alcoholics Anonymous, which aims to help participants connect to a “higher power” in treatment planning, according to the article. The researchers say their study suggests AA may be helpful for teens.
“There are two key elements of the 12-step program AA uses: helping others and God-consciousness. Those who help people during treatment—taking time to talk to another addict who is struggling, volunteering, cleaning up, setting up for meetings, or other service projects—are, according to our research, statistically more likely to stay sober and out of jail in the six months after discharge, a high-risk period in which 70 percent relapse,” the researchers said.

They found daily spiritual experiences was associated with increased abstinence and social behavior, and decreased narcissistic behavior. The researchers say even teens who start addiction treatment without a religious background can benefit from a group that encourages them to seek a higher power and serve other people.

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    Bill Crane

    April 3, 2014 at 3:17 PM

    This is a case of putting the cart before the horse. Religion is not a preventive strategy, not is it a “recovery supportive” strategy. It is, as are drugs (and alcohol), a means to experience the sublime. Finding a way to deeply connect to something outside of oneself, especially to the wonder of nature, or existence, or another, is a normal human attribute. Religion offers this experience to many – but to many others, for many reasons, it does not. Consequently, drug use provides a fairly easy alternative to having these opportunities for connecting outside of oneself.

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    Eric Wood, MA LCAC CADAC II

    April 1, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    “They found daily spiritual experiences was associated with increased abstinence and social behavior, and decreased narcissistic behavior.”

    This is the whole point of the spiritual foundation of AA — embracing humility as a means of countering terminably selfish behavior. It is not, as many 12-Step opponents claim, a religious indoctrination. Certainly, many members of 12-Step groups promote their own religious beliefs, but that is not in keeping with the philosophy of inclusion set forth by the phrase, “as you understand Him.” Remember, that item was penned in the 1930s, when the notion of designating God with the word “Him” wasn’t considered to be such a hot-button idea. The invitation was simply to encourage a ‘less of me, more of we’ mentality. That is a message of which today’s youth are in desperate need.

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