So Help Me God: Substance Abuse, Religion & Spirituality | CASAColumbia

So Help Me God: Substance Abuse, Religion and Spirituality

So Help Me God: Substance Abuse, Religion and Spirituality

Published: November 2001

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For many individuals, religion and spirituality are important components of prevention and treatment of substance abuse and of successful recovery. This report examines the link between addiction and spirituality.


CASAColumbia’s work for this report involved:

  • Two original surveys—one of presidents of schools of theology and seminaries, and one of clergy
  • Analyses of 3 national data sets
  • A review of more than 300 publications
  • An examination of prevention and treatment programs that incorporate spiritual or religious components


This report found that God, religion and spirituality are key factors for many individuals in the prevention and treatment of substance abuse and in continuing recovery, yet spirituality and religion are often overlooked as relevant factors in preventing and treating substance abuse and addiction.

The report indicates that tapping the power of religion and spirituality has enormous potential for lowering the risk of substance abuse among teens and adults and, when combined with professional treatment, for promoting recovery. Adults and teens who considered religion to be very important and who attended religious services weekly or more were far less likely to smoke, drink or use illicit drugs. Individuals who, in addition to receiving treatment, attended spiritually based support programs, such as the 12-step programs Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, were more likely to maintain sobriety. Individuals in successful recovery often showed greater levels of faith and spirituality than did those who had relapsed. 


Because religion and spirituality have proven to be important in preventing risky substance use and addiction, CASAColumbia recommends the following:

  • Training clergy to recognize signs of substance abuse and addiction and to know how to deal with these problems among members of their congregations; clergy should incorporate prevention and recovery messages into their ministries and become familiar with treatment services in their communities
  • Training medical professionals to recognize the importance of spirituality and to take advantage of spiritual and religious resources available in their local communities
  • Conducting more research to better understand and enhance the effectiveness of faith-based prevention initiatives and treatment programs

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