Religiosity Less Impactful For Teens Than Adults In Substance Abuse Recovery

In a finding that surprised researchers, religiosity was shown to play a lesser role in substance use recovery for teenagers than adults, a new study finds.

Religiosity and spirituality are terms broadly used to describe sets of beliefs that anchor an individual and increase his or her sense of belonging within a community or within the context of wider aspects of day-to-day reality. Current evidence indicates that a religious/spiritual outlook can substantially improve the odds that an adult with substance use disorder (substance abuse and/or substance addiction) will successfully recover and return to a sustaining, fulfilling life routine.

In a study published in 2014 in the journal Substance Abuse, a team of American researchers sought to determine how much religiosity/spirituality influences the recovery odds of teenagers affected by substance use disorder.

Substance Use Disorder

A person with substance use disorder has anywhere from two to 11 symptoms that indicate the presence of a damaging, physically or mentally impairing relationship with the consumption of drugs, alcohol or a mind-altering medication. Some of the symptoms of the disorder were previously used exclusively to identify people with diagnosable cases of non-addicted substance abuse. Similarly, some of the symptoms of substance use disorder were previously used exclusively to identify people with diagnosable cases of substance addiction.

However, many of the dysfunctional behaviors associated with substance abuse also appear in people who would otherwise receive a diagnosis for substance addiction, and doctors have no meaningful way to completely separate cases of the two conditions. For this reason, the American Psychiatric Association abolished substance abuse and substance addiction as independently diagnosable conditions in 2013 and established substance use disorder as the sole diagnosis for all affected individuals.

Religiosity/Spirituality And Substance Treatment

God’s Light-Religiosity Less Impactful For Teens - Christian DrugRehabFor some people, spirituality and the practice of a specific religious tradition are synonymous and inseparable. However, others view spirituality as essentially separate from any particular religious tradition and choose to follow spiritual/religious beliefs that are self-defined or fall outside of the belief systems associated with the world’s major religions.

Whatever the context, common components of spiritual/religious practice include such things as prayer, reverence for some sort of higher power and a belief in deep connections between various aspects of reality that may seem unconnected on the surface.

There is considerable evidence to support the usefulness of religiosity/spirituality for adults recovering from substance abuse and/or substance addiction. For example, a wide array of typically effective mutual self-help programs, commonly known as 12-step programs, explicitly center their approach on surrender to some sort of higher power that can help provide the strength required for successful recovery. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism specifically acknowledges the effectiveness of 12-step groups within the context of recovery from alcohol use disorder.

Religiosity/Spirituality Usefulness For Teen Substance Problems

In the study published in Substance Abuse, researchers from Harvard Medical School, Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital and Suffolk University used an evaluation of 127 teenagers between the ages of 14 and 19 to assess the usefulness of religiosity/spirituality in helping people in this age group recover from substance use disorder. All of these teens were involved in outpatient treatment for their condition.

Some of the participants exhibited a high level of recognition regarding their problematic substance use, while others exhibited an average or low level of recognition regarding the seriousness of their problems. The researchers analyzed the typical level of religiosity/spirituality in both of these groups and compared the religiosity/spirituality quotient for each individual to his or her treatment-related outcomes over the following year.

After completing the main phase of the project, the researchers concluded that the teens’ level of religiosity/spirituality did not have any noticeable impact on their odds of abstaining from substance use in the year following treatment enrollment.

However, they also concluded that a relatively high level of religiosity/spirituality did decrease the teens’ odds of experiencing some of the negative consequences of substance intake. These positive results were largely limited to those individuals who exhibited awareness of the seriousness of their substance problems. The teens who lacked this awareness did not experience any notable decreases in their level of exposure to substance-related harm.

Overall, the study’s authors concluded that religiosity/spirituality does not play the same prominent role in substance recovery for teenagers as it plays for adults with diagnosable substance problems.

They believe that two factors may at least partially account for this largely unexpected outcome: a relative lack of religiosity/spirituality among the teen participants enrolled in the study and a relative lack of commitment to substance abstinence among the study participants. Results in more religiously/spiritually active or abstinence-committed teenagers may be markedly different.

Even If Your Teen Doesn’t Respond To Spiritual Treatment…Never Stop Praying –
God Always Hears…& Cares!