Spiritual dimensions and the treatment of alcohol and drug problems.

Chain of addiction

My calendar of community events notes this week as Drug Action Week. Drug Action Week, an initiative of the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia which was a national peak body representing the alcohol and drug treatment sector, aimed to highlight the issues accompanying drug and alcohol use and those that work to reduce it’s harm. For over 50 years they provided frank evidence-based advice to governments and organisations. In February funding to this organisation was cut by the Abbott Government forcing it’s closure and the end of Drug Awareness Week.

Biomedical research tells us that substance abuse holds us back from recognising our inherent intelligence and abilities, and facing our fears. Research by Hodges 2011 published in Social Work USA, which examined the use of spiritually modified Cognitive— Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in the treatment of a mental illnesses such as stress, depression and bipolar disorder. It was found that the results of using spiritually modified CBT was similar to or superior to traditional CBT. Although spiritual modified CBT have not been used to treat substance abuse Hodges suggests that incorporating spirituality into the treatment for substance abuse may speed recovery, enhance treatment compliance, prevent relapse, and reduce treatment disparities by providing more culturally congruent services.

Many patients undergoing treatment, work with self-statements (Ellis as cited in Hodges 2011). This helps them deal with the depression or anxiety that may precede substance use. It is thought that these statements, rephrased by patients according to their metaphysical framework have greater relevance. These statements then become more than affirmations of self-worth dependant on human agency (which has failed many) for now they have the weight of the patient’s spiritual concept of their identity.

The role of prayer and meditation has also been found to be effective in recovery from substance abuse (Elsheikh, 2008; Bowen et al., 2006; Lau & Segal, 2007;Taub et al, 1994 cited in Hodges 2011). In my own experience I have found prayer effective in overcoming anxiety and depression particularly when it goes beyond a request for God to intervene and change something in my life. When my prayer starts with a silencing of human argument and suggestion and moves to an affirmation of God’s all power and an understanding of myself as created spiritually, as state in the first chapter of Genesis, in the image and likeness of God — a God who is loving and all good, then I see results.

When speaking of mankind’s understanding of the Divine and of man’s own spiritual nature Mary Baker Eddy, a writer and early researcher into the connection of spirituality and health, states in her major work Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, that this understanding “is the sovereign panacea, giving strength to the weakness of mortal mind, — strength from the immortal and omnipotent Mind…” and that it is “impartial and universal in it adaptation and bestowals.” available to all anytime, anywhere.