Faith-based recovery groups are not only saving lives on a daily basis, but they’re helping save the U.S. economy truckloads of cash.
A new study, published in the Journal of Religion and Health and led by sociologist Brian Grim of Baylor University, details how faith is playing a vital role in substance abuse recovery.
“Religious beliefs, practices, and ministries not only provide succor and solace to those in need,” says Faith Counts, the non-profit organization who created the study. “They provide tangible, valuable resources that can help prevent and address substance abuse.”
The study revealed having a tie to a specific religion or faith helps addicts stay in recovery longer, keeping them away from relapse. More importantly, it showed those with faith-ties are more likely to stay away from addiction in the first place.
For some perspective on how pervasive the problem of addiction is, at any given moment there are an estimated 20 million Americans who are impacted by a substance use disorder, commonly known as SUD. As a result, there are approximately 158,000 deaths each year from alcohol and drug-related deaths.
This study excluded the opioid crisis because according to Grim, it “presents a different and unprecedented set of challenges that require a unique approach to treatment.”
What did the study reveal?
According to Grim and multiple other studies, having religious ties lowers a person chance of struggling with addiction, but it’s no guarantee of sobriety.
Researchers concluded a majority of addiction treatment programs in the United States include “a spirituality-based element.” 73 percent of these programs, including Alcoholics Anonymous, include references and practices in regards to a higher power.
There are around 130,000 congregations that provide help, such as Celebrate Recovery, and offer programs rooted in faith.
“While in the latest Gallup survey only 46 percent of Americans think that religion can answer today’s problems,” Brian Grim explains, “The reality is that religion provides answers for one of today’s biggest problems—addiction.”
According to Faith Counts, more than 80 percent of studies done demonstrate that faith helps reduce the risk of substance abuse. Their research further points out that “up to 82 percent of clients who experience a spiritual awakening during substance abuse treatment and recovery were completely abstinent at a one-year follow-up, compared to 55 percent of non-spiritually awakened clients.”
Furthermore, younger religious teenagers are three times less likely to use illegal substances than non-religious teenagers.
“Teens themselves tend to cite their peers’ religious and spiritual inclinations as reasons that discourage their peers from drinking and taking drugs,” Grim wrote.
Saving the American economy over $300 billion
The study led Grim to declare that not only do faith-based recovery groups save the lives of around 20,000 people each year, but they also save the American economy around $316.6 billion every single year.
Byron R. Johnson, a professor and director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, says faith-based programs work non-stop to help with social programs, but rarely receive recognition for it.
“Faith-based organizations work tirelessly to address difficult social problems like homelessness, crime, and prisoner re-entry,” he pointed out, yet they “rarely receive recognition for their positive and valuable contributions.”
The Faith Counts study pointed out that church membership is declining, which could pose a problem in the long-run for society in regards to addiction.
While church attendance is down, there are positive studies that showcase the faith of millennials and the interest in faith on the rise.
“Millennial non-Christians are much more likely to have had one or more conversations about faith than their older counterparts and are twice as likely to express personal interest in Christianity (26% vs. 16%),” explained Barna in a May 2019 study.
“They’ve also had much more personal experience with all kinds of evangelistic methods than older non-Christians, including through tracts (45% vs. 26%) or encounters with a person either at church (35% vs. 19%) or on the street (30% vs. 16%).”
It is the 30th annual year of observing September as National Recovery Month, which is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The month works to “promote the message that recovery in all of its forms is possible and encourages citizens to take action to help expand and improve the availability of effective prevention, treatment, and recovery services for those in need.”
You can observe the National Recovery Month by continuing to pray for those struggling with addiction and for family and friends impacted by addiction in one way or another.