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Faith-Based Answers to Substance Abuse and Addiction

Published by Daniel Brooks Moore on

Rehabilitation from the tyranny of drugs has a spiritual as well as a physical component, and many faiths, instead of turning their backs on the problem, tackle it head-on within their own religious modalities.  Some offer help specifically within their own congregations; others are open to all. Many faiths incorporate or refer members to a 12-Step program wherein one embraces a higher power, thus mirroring their own beliefs. A few examples of faith-based rehab programs associated with specific religions follow, in alphabetical order:

Baptist: In the face of the opioid epidemic, the Southern Baptist Convention declared that “Christians are commanded to love their neighbors (Matthew 22:39) which includes those in our communities suffering from the harmful effects of opioid addiction.”  Baptist churches worldwide sponsor support groups for those troubled by addiction.  For example, Reformers Unanimous, founded in 1996 by a recovering alcoholic and cocaine addict, now has over 2,000 chapters in dozens of countries.

Catholic: While acknowledging that addiction is a sin, the Catholic Church also acknowledges that people can make mistakes and that with belief in the Holy Trinity, prayer, atonement and counseling, along with proven detoxification techniques, one can find comfort and release from substance abuse and lead a sober Catholic sacramental life. There are many Catholic treatment centers, varying in facilities from private to public local parish support groups.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Addiction Recovery Program (ARP) treats substance abuse within its own congregation by incorporating traditional 12-step programs and detoxification with daily prayer, meditation and study of scripture so as to bring about atonement through Jesus Christ and a rededication to a sober life. 

Episcopal: The Episcopal Recovery Ministries is an independent network of Episcopal organizations. Its mission includes, “Help the addicted and those who love them connect with spiritual resources and find lasting recovery.  Raise the awareness of clergy and other leaders about the disease of addiction and the redemption and grace found in recovery. Strengthen recovery Episcopalians in the work of their recovery and help proclaim the Gospel in the world and carry their recovery into the Church.”

Evangelical: Evangelical Pastor John Baker developed “Celebrate Recovery: An Evangelical 12-Step Program” which incorporates the traditional 12-step program with quotes from scripture. Over 35,000 churches globally promote Pastor Baker’s program.

Islam: The Millati Islami fellowship integrates the 12-step nondenominational program of Alcoholics Anonymous with specifically Muslim values, such as an increased understanding of how to love and respect Allah through prayer and study.

Judaism: Founded in 1979 by individuals who had firsthand experience of the agonies, stigma and shame of addiction, Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons, and Significant Others (JACS) is a network that helps Jews who are struggling with substance abuse. Incorporating Jewish values and daily prayer along with proven evidence-based programs, the group also sponsors retreat weekends, chances to enjoy the Sabbath with like-minded individuals, and forums for discussions with rabbis and rabbinical students.

Scientology: Open to all faiths and based on Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s discoveries, the fully secular Narconon uses an evidenced-based, drug-free approach to rehabilitation, incorporating detoxification through sauna, exercise and nutrition, and education in life skills to ensure the individual is stable, substance-free and in full control of his life. The Church of Scientology and Scientologists support Narconon.

Seventh-Day Adventist: The Seventh-Day Adventist Church offers its Journey to Wholeness program which is accomplished in “an atmosphere of Christian love and acceptance,” according to the program’s website.  Incorporating the 12-step program and recognizing Jesus Christ as the higher power, the program’s goal is “recovery and freedom from obsessive thoughts, compulsive actions, habitual behaviors, and spiritual separation.”

Substance abuse knows no boundaries, practices no discrimination, tolerates no favoritism. It is a scourge that affects all cultures and creeds. Hence this guide to available resources.



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