We have had Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No,” Obama’s “Above the Influence,” and countless other anti-drug and -alcohol campaigns in the last few decades. You would think that at least one of these initiatives should have helped us gain significant traction against drug and alcohol abuse.
Hardly. Despite our government’s best efforts, substance abuse cases and overdose deaths have risen dramatically in the last 20 years.
Here’s another interesting fact – Our nation is experiencing its steepest decline ever in religious association and participation. According to Gallup, 70% of Americans claimed to be members of a church or other religious organization in 1999. As of 2020, religious affiliation had fallen to just 47%, the lowest level in U.S. history.
The Religion Connection
Substance abuse on the rise and religion in decline? Could they be linked? We believe they are, and recent research backs this up. In 2019, Brian and Melissa Grim published their review of numerous studies showing a relationship between substance abuse prevention and treatment and religious participation. They reported that 84% of these studies showed a positive correlation. The Grims concluded that “religion and spirituality are exceptionally powerful, integral, and indispensable resources in substance abuse prevention and recovery.”
As an LDS drug treatment center (based on the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), Renaissance Ranch incorporates foundational Christian teachings and doctrine throughout its recovery program. “Without faith in God and a belief that He cares deeply about who you are and what you’re doing in this life, it’s really easy to give in to harmful addictions that promise to fill that spiritual void,” said Ranch COO Preston Dixon. “But once you feel that connection to your creator, you realize that no substance on earth can take His place,” he continued.
Belief without action, however, does not necessarily produce the same success. In Alcoholics Anonymous groups, for example, those who attend meetings regularly have higher rates of sustained recovery than those who only show up intermittently. The same is valid for faith communities. “Through consistent worship, we can strengthen our attachments to God and each other,” said Dixon. “These lifelines allow us to stay focused on our spiritual and recovery goals.”
The 2001 National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse study discovered that adults who attended weekly religious services were five times less likely to use illicit drugs and seven times less likely to binge drink. With that in mind, consider that 81% of Americans believe in God, but only 20% attend church services at least once a week. It’s no wonder that Brian and Melissa Grim’s study determined that the decline of religious affiliation in America represents a serious public health concern in terms of our nation’s battle against substance abuse.
Reasons Why Religious Participation Works
Let’s discuss some of the ways our religious affiliation can help prevent us from falling prey to substance abuse and relapse:
Social Support and Sense of Belonging
One of the primary reasons active religious participation is a preventative measure against substance abuse is the social support and sense of belonging it provides. Being part of a faith community often fosters solid social ties and gives you a network of caring individuals who can offer emotional support during times of stress or vulnerability. Such support can act as a buffer against the lure of alcohol and drugs, reducing the risk of turning to substances to cope with life’s challenges.
Religious congregations also encourage members to care for and serve one another, thus creating a nurturing environment that can help you develop healthy coping strategies and maintain a positive outlook on life.
Shared Values and Moral Guidance
Religious communities typically promote shared values and moral guidelines that discourage substance abuse. Most faith traditions emphasize self-discipline, temperance, and compassion for others. By adhering to these principles, you may find it easier to resist the temptations of alcohol and drugs because you want your actions to align with your spiritual beliefs.
Moreover, religious teachings often emphasize the importance of self-care and responsible decision-making, encouraging you to prioritize your well-being and avoid behaviors that could harm yourself or others.
Rituals and Spiritual Practices
Participating in religious rituals and spiritual practices can profoundly impact your mental and emotional well-being. Prayer, meditation, and other forms of worship can provide a sense of inner peace and serenity, reducing stress and anxiety – common triggers for substance abuse.
Engaging in these practices regularly – alone and with others in your faith community – can offer healthier and more sustainable ways to cope with life’s challenges.
Purpose and Meaning in Life
Religious faith provides a sense of purpose and meaning in life for many people. Having a strong sense of purpose is linked to better mental health and resilience, reducing the likelihood of turning to alcohol or drugs as a way of escaping from trauma or difficulties.
Focus on Healthy Activities
Religious communities often offer various activities and opportunities for members to engage in positive and healthy pursuits. These activities include volunteer work, charity initiatives, support groups, and educational programs. Engaging in such endeavors can fill your life with meaningful and rewarding experiences, leaving less room for the appeal of harmful substances.
If you’re considering a faith-based treatment center for yourself or a loved one, call us at (855) 736-7262.