Treating Teen Addicts with Spirituality

spirituality-recoveryWhen teens struggle with addiction their body is not at peace. They become caught up in a personal battle between themselves and the power of alcohol or drugs. Some researchers believe that having a more spiritual life may help them find that peace, and having a more selfless nature could help defeat their addiction.

In Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), professionals propose that self-centeredness is one cause of alcoholic addiction. Alcohol starts to take over a person’s life, causes them to say and do things they ordinarily would not and damages their health. Tapping into a spiritual lifestyle creates attitudes that help teens think of others, care for others and re-center a focus between themselves and others.

More Spirituality, Less Addiction

A more spiritual life may decrease alcohol or drug use, according to a study by researchers from the University of Akron, Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) and Baylor University. The researchers studied 195 people aged 14 to 18 who were in a 12-step recovery program. Most of the teens in the study had both a dependence on marijuana and alcohol.

Within their first 10 days of the treatment, the participants were interviewed about their spiritual experiences and substance use. The teens were interviewed again when they were discharged from treatment two months later. Researchers did not differentiate between whether the person was from an organized religious group, a non-denominational group or was atheist, but they did differentiate between daily spiritual experiences and religious beliefs and behaviors. Religious experiences included faith in a higher presence or deity, a call to doing acts of charity and goodness toward others, as well as feelings of inner peace.

As the teens became more spiritual, the researchers saw their use of alcohol and drugs decrease and their social lives improve as they thought more of others, worked better with others and turned their focus to others instead of themselves.

Spiritual Shift

By the end of the two month treatment most of the teens were having more daily spiritual experiences, helping them to heal and reducing their substance abuse. No matter what the initial spiritual or religious background of the teens, most of them improved.

Even for the agnostic and atheist teens who came into treatment, spirituality eventually became a daily part of their lives and helped further their recovery. According to co-investigator Byron R. Johnson, Ph.D., two-thirds of the teens who said that they were agnostic or atheist at the beginning of the study had become spiritual. The study results proved that the treatment can help any teen.

As students shift to a more spiritual life their outcomes improve. Co-investigator Matthew T. Lee, Ph.D. said that toxicology reports showed that the teens had lower levels of substances in their bodies. Through follow-up interviews teens expressed their spiritual feelings and actions. Many had become less self-centered. They saw purpose and felt a desire to help others because of their new or increased spirituality.

Spiritual Treatment

The spiritual component of the treatment aided the teens in their recovery from alcohol and drug addiction, and researchers like Lee hope that this study can be a basis for designing successful treatment options for teens with substance abuse.

The spiritual treatment helped the teens become better members in their community as they broke out of their self-centered shells and reached out to others. They became more compassionate to others’ needs and were reminded that they were not alone, but a member of a whole community working together. Maria Pagano, Ph.D., principal investigator and associate professor of psychiatry at CWRU’s School of Medicine, believes that this type of treatment could increase volunteering and encourage teens to find employment, actions that not only may help them avoid substance abuse but will help them become better members of society. Article Link…

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