Tag Archive: clergy

  1. The Connection Between Religion, Science and Substance Abuse

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    How do religion, science and substance abuse fit together? According to a two year study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), combining the power of religion with the power of science and professional medicine can prevent and treat substance abuse and addiction.

    It is unfortunate that very few, if any, clergy receive training for substance abuse. It is even more unfortunate that many medical professionals, especially psychiatrists don’t see the value in taking advantage of spirituality and religion to treat their patients who are struggling with addiction.

    Religion and Science in the United States

    Religion is a big deal in the United States. 92% of Americans are affiliated with a particular religion and the country has a wide variety of places of worship including cathedrals, churches, synagogues, mosques and temples. As one of the most medically advanced countries in the world as well, the United States has some of the most sophisticated health care available. However, religion and science remain separated, and in some cases this may mean that the individual is denied the help that may aid their recovery and ease their pain, particularly relating to substance abuse. For many individuals in recovery, God and religion have played a part in their journey to sobriety.

    The CASA study mentioned previously, surveyed an unprecedented amount of clergy and heads of theology schools, and some of its findings show that individuals who don’t consider religious beliefs important are more than one-and-a-half times likely to smoke, three times likelier to binge-drink, almost four times likelier to use an illicit drug apart from marijuana and more than six times likelier to smoke pot than individuals who have closely held religious beliefs.

    So what are the disconnects between religion and the prevention and treatment of addiction? There are two significant ones. First, the extent to which clergy see substance abuse as a problem in their congregations and their lack of training to deal with it, and second, the medical profession’s failure to tap into the importance of religion and spirituality while dealing with the patients who struggle with addiction.

    The Clergy Disconnect

    The CASA study showed that 94% of the clergy surveyed consider substance abuse and addiction to be an important problem in their congregations. However, only 12.5% of them had received any training about handling substance abuse, and only 36% said that they preach a sermon on that issue more than once a year.

    Recently, the Vatican’s Council for Health Care Workers released a 200 page manual on drugs and addiction, focusing on the church’s role in prevention and treatment. Among suggestions like church sponsored treatment programs, the manual urges the clergy to listen to their parishioners concerns about drugs and alcohol abuse.

    The Doctor-Patient Disconnect

    Medical professionals, particularly psychiatrists and  psychologists tend not to recognize the importance of God, religion and spirituality in treating patients struggling with substance abuse and addiction. Only 40% to 45% of mental health practitioners believe in God and only 57%  of psychiatrists would recommend that a patient consult their priest. 65% of psychiatrists said that religion was not included in their training.

    It is clear that the chasm extends on both sides. If religious leaders became more engaged in addressing addiction issues, and medical professionals understood the importance of religion in their patients’ lives, then this would be a new, barely tapped resource in the battle against addiction.

    At the core of Sustain Recovery is a structured extended care program geared towards adolescents, focusing on living skills, education, and fun in recovery. Contact us to learn more about the elements of transitioning to sober living.

I first met Sayeh in November of 2013 just after my 15 year old daughter had been admitted to a residential treatment program. As part of the program I was required to attend 2-3 AlAnon meetings a week. Sayeh attended the same AlAnon meetings as well as Alumni events as I. It soon became apparent to me that Sayeh had a heart for recovery, program, and God. When I was encouraged to get a sponsor I didn’t hesitate. Dependable, respectful, kind and generous of spirit, she exudes an inner peace that I hope to achieve with her loving guidance, as I work my own program. She is patient, & full of wisdom that she is always happy to share with her sponsees and fellow parents. I am so grateful our journeys brought us together.

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