Religious drug/alcohol rehab programs start off less effective, cause depression, and may encourage relapse

A few studies of drug/alcohol rehab found that religious rehab programs start off worse and cause more depression/anxiety than secular psychological treatment.

spiritual drug rehab

In two clinical trials, published in the Journal of Substance Abuse, “Some of the patients received spiritual guidance as part of the treatment… others received secular psychotherapy. Because of the enduring popularity… programs that involve a spiritual component, Miller and his team expected the patients in the spiritual group to do better than those in the secular group. They were wrong — at least in the short term.

While both groups eventually benefited relatively equally from their treatment — abusing substances on fewer days — it took *longer* to see improvement among those in the spiritual group.

What’s more, those who received spiritual guidance reported being significantly more anxious and depressed after four months than those who got secular help. Those problems abated at about the eight-month point, but because substance abusers are at high risk for suicide, some worry that it may not be a good idea to put them through demanding spiritual calisthenics in the early months of their recovery.

This amplifies a fascinating 1997 paper which found that patients who reported knowing that someone was praying for them used significantly more substances after leaving treatment than those who didn’t know someone was praying for them.” (1)

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