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September is National Recovery Month, and new research details the importance of faith-based programs and church communities in recovering from alcohol and substance abuse. In their study, published in the Journal of Religion and Health, the father-daughter team of Brian Grim and Melissa Grim note that a majority of treatment programs include a spiritual component and that faith-based recovery groups save the U.S. economy more than $300 billion annually. As a result, they warn, the downward trend in religious affiliation could hamper wellness for substance abusers in the future.
The study, titled “Belief, Behavior, and Belonging: How Faith Is Indispensable in Preventing and Recovering From Substance Abuse,” is part of ongoing research from Faith Counts, a multi-faith non-profit organization that promotes the value of religion and spirituality. The study concludes that faith is key to long-term recovery as well as to reducing the risk of addiction in the first place.
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Religion Is Part of Most Treatment Programs
Researchers found that 73 percent of America’s addiction treatment programs—including 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)—contain “a spirituality-based element,” whether a reference to God or a higher power. An estimated 130,000 congregations of all faiths provide some type of recovery assistance, such as Teen Challenge, AA, or Celebrate Recovery.
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According to Grim, this clearly contradicts the assumption that religion is irrelevant to societal woes. “While in the latest Gallup survey only 46 percent of Americans think that religion can answer today’s problems,” he says, “the reality is that religion provides answers for one of today’s biggest problems—addiction.”
Religion also “protects” people from engaging in harmful habits to begin with, research shows. More than 80 percent of studies reveal that faith reduces the risks of both alcohol abuse and drug abuse. Among young people, religious teenagers are three times less likely to binge drink and four times...
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