Anonymous AA or Narcotics Anonymous

(NA)—both self-help groups founded on strong spiritual underpinnings.

This discussion is limited to recent conditions in the United States, focusing on potentially dangerous, abusive, and/or illicit patterns of drug use. Since such drug use is widely disapproved by most religious teachings and leaders, it is not surprising to find that those with strong religious commitments are less likely to be drug users or abusers. Moreover, research findings clearly show that religious involvement has been a protective factor, helping some adolescents resist the drug epidemics of the 1970s and 80s.

Because religion has been found to be a protective factor against drug use and dependence and because our society is concerned with drug use among young people, much of the research linking religion with drug use focuses on adolescents and young adults. This age range is particularly important for several reasons. First, it is the period during which most addiction to NICOTINE begins; the majority of people who make it through their teens as nonsmokers do not take up the habit during their twenties or later (Bachman et al., 1997). Second, ADOLESCENCE and young adulthood is the period during which abusive alcohol consumption is most widespread. Third, recent EPIDEMICS in the use of illicit drugs have been most pronounced among teenagers and young adults. Fourth, during this portion of the life span, many changes, opportunities, and risks occur; thus, the structures and guidelines provided by religious commitment may be especially important in helping young people resist the temptation to use and abuse drugs. Finally, evidence that religious conversion is most likely to occur during adolescence (Spilka, 1991) makes this period particularly appropriate for research on the link between religion and drug use.

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