Background: The connection between religion/spirituality and deviance, like substance abuse, was first made by Durkheim who defined socially expected behaviors as norms. He explained that deviance is due in large part to their absence (called anomie), and concluded that spirituality lowers deviance by preserving norms and social bonds. Impairments in brain reward circuitry, as observed in Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS), may also result in deviance and as such we wondered if stronger belief in spirituality practice and religious belief could lower relapse from drugs of abuse.
Methods: The NIDA Drug Addiction Treatment Outcome Study data set was used to examine post hoc relapse rates among 2,947 clients who were interviewed at 12 months after intake broken down by five spirituality measures.
Results: Our main findings strongly indicate, that those with low spirituality have higher relapse rates and those with high spirituality have higher remission rates with crack use being the sole exception. We found significant differences in terms of cocaine, heroin, alcohol, and marijuana relapse as a function of strength of religious beliefs (x2 = 15.18, p = 0.028; logistic regression = 10.65, p = 0.006); frequency of attending religious services (x2 = 40.78, p < 0.0005; logistic regression = 30.45, p < 0.0005); frequency of reading religious books (x2 = 27.190, p < 0.0005; logistic regression = 17.31, p < 0.0005); frequency of watching religious programs (x2 = 19.02, p = 0.002; logistic regression = ns); and frequency of meditation/prayer (x2 = 11.33, p = 0.045; logistic regression = 9.650, p = 0.002). Across the five measures of spirituality, the spiritual participants reported between 7% and 21% less alcohol, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana use than the non-spiritual subjects. However, the crack users who reported that religion was not important reported significantly less crack use than the spiritual participants. The strongest association between remission and spirituality involves attending religious services weekly, the one marker of the five that involves the highest social interaction/social bonding consistent with Durkheim's social bond theory. Conclusions: Stronger spiritual/religious beliefs and practices are directly associated with remission from abused drugs except crack. Much like the value of having a sponsor, for clients who abuse drugs, regular spiritual practice, particularly weekly attendance at the religious services of their choice is associated with significantly higher remission. These results demonstrate the clinically significant role of spirituality and the social bonds it creates in drug treatment programs.
Citation: Schoenthaler SJ, Blum K, Braverman ER, Giordano J, Thompson B, et al. 2015. NIDADrug Addiction Treatment Outcome Study (DATOS) Relapse as a Function of Spirituality/ Religiosity. J Reward Defic Syndr Addict Sci 1(1): 36-45.