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The Connection Between Spirituality and Recovery


Addiction, also known as substance use disorder (SUD), is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic brain disorder. The Mayo Clinic explains addiction as a disease “that affects a person’s brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication” without regard for consequence. There is no universal treatment method that proves most effective when it comes to the recovery process from substance use disorder. However, the first Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, Elinore McCance-Katz, MD, PhD, who lead the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), identified three necessary steps (clinical care, social intervention, and social support) to successfully combat and treat addiction. 

Spirituality and Recovery

An article published in the Journal of Religion & Health, Belief, Behavior, and Belonging: How Faith is Indispensable in Preventing and Recovering from Substance Abuse, reveals the integral role spirituality plays in the treatment of substance use disorders. Spirituality, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, “involves the recognition of a feeling or sense or belief that there is something greater than [oneself], something more to being human than sensory experience, and that the greater whole of which we are part is cosmic or divine in nature.” It is important to note that there is no clear consensus about its definition among health researchers, as spirituality is a broad and complex concept which varies its understanding according to different cultural, religious, and academic backgrounds. 

Faith-oriented approaches to substance abuse prevention and recovery are common practice, as according to a 2019 study, “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.” An array of evidence-based studies confirms the instrumental contribution of spirituality to substance abuse prevention and recovery, some of which include:

  • Research shows that a person’s effective use of the spiritual resources from their faith tradition contributes to better substance abuse recovery outcomes. For example, An Examination of Spirituality among African American Women in Recovery from Substance Abuse, an article published in the Journal of Black Psychology, concluded that spirituality among African Americans in recovery from substance abuse is associated with more positive outcomes.
  • A Salvation Army Harbor Light Center in Washington D.C. survey found that participants who chose engagement in spiritual activities improved their chance of successfully completing their addiction treatment program.
  • Findings from a University of Alabama study revealed that “higher religious faith and spirituality are associated with increased coping, greater resilience to stress, an optimistic life orientation, greater perceived social support and lower levels of anxiety.”
  • Another study found that people “with strong religious or spiritual beliefs are healthier, heal faster and live longer than those without them” and that “religion and spirituality can play a powerful role in the prevention and treatment of substance abuse and in the maintenance of sobriety.”

For Information and Support 

Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous and can result in severe short and long-term consequences. If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone, and we are here to help. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. We are available anytime via telephone at: 213-389-9964, or you can always email us at:

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