Belief, Behavior, and Belonging: How Faith is Indispensable in Preventing and Recovering from Substance Abuse
America is in the midst of an acute alcohol and drug addiction crisis. There are different camps in what constitutes the most effective recovery. Some are proposing medical and psychological resources as the first steps in recovery. At Adult & Teen Challenge we feel that faith is necessary in sustaining a drug-free life – a personal relationship with Jesus is the answer.
In July 2019, Brian J. Grim and Melissa E. Grim released a paper on their study on faith in preventing and recovering from substance abuse. This is further confirmation of our stance that a faith component is essential to successful recovery.
Teen Challenge studies are quoted in the paper. Graduates give three factors for maintaining their sobriety: “staying connected to God”, “family”, and “hanging out with positive people.”
The study reviews the voluminous empirical evidence on faith’s contribution to preventing people from falling victim to substance abuse and helping them recover from it. Evidence-based studies have found that youths who are spiritually active, participate in a faith community, and invest in a prayerful relationship with their God are less likely to use or abuse drugs and alcohol. Teens who did not consider religious beliefs important were almost three times more likely to smoke, five times more likely to binge on alcohol, and almost eight times more likely to use marijuana compared with teen who strong appreciate the significance of religion in their daily lives.
73% of addiction treatment programs in the USA include a spirituality-based element, as embodied in the 12-step programs and fellowships initially popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous, the vast majority of which emphasize reliance on God or a Higher Power to stay sober. We introduce and flesh out a typology of faith-based substance abuse treatment facilities, recovery programs, and support groups. This typology provides important background as we then move on to make an economic valuation of nearly 130,000 congregation-based substance abuse recovery support programs in the USA. We find that these faith-based volunteer support groups contribute up to $316.6 billion in savings to the US economy every year at no cost to taxpayers. While negative experiences with religion (e.g., clergy sex abuse and other horrendous examples) have been a contributory factor to substance abuse among some victims, given that more than 84% of scientific studies show that faith is a positive factor in addiction prevention or recovery and a risk in less than 2% of the studies reviewed, we conclude that the value of faith-oriented approaches to substance abuse prevention and recovery is indisputable. And, by extension, we also conclude that the decline in religious affiliation in the USA is not only a concern for religious organizations but constitutes a national health concern.
For the complete article visit the Journal of Religion and Health.