Oct 18, 2013 | By Tim Powers

Religion and Drug Use

Addiction & Recovery News

Religion and Drug Use

religionGerman philosopher Karl Marx had said that religion was the opium of the people.  A recent study conducted at Lausanne University Hospital in Switzerland suggests there is a connection between religion and drug use.  With this relation between religion and drug use, religion plays a role in the prevention of substance misuse.  The findings of this study can be found in the journal Substance Use and Misuse.  The study, which was spearheaded by Gerhard Gmel, noted that in Switzerland, fewer religious young men consumer addictive substances in comparison to those who identify themselves as either agnostic or atheist.

Gmel and his colleagues interviewed almost twenty-year old men at an army recruitment centers in three cities: Lausanne, Windisch and Mels over a one year period between August 2010 and November 2011.  The researchers compiled just over five thousand questionnaires that were completed by the young men.  Based on the responses of these questionnaires, researchers split the young men into five separate groups.

Group 1—the “religious” group (those who believe in God and attend church services)

Group 2—the “spiritual” group (those who believe in a higher power but don’t practice any religion)

Group 3—the “unsure” group (those who do not know what to believe about God)

Group 4—the “agnostic” group (those who assume that no one can know whether there is a God or not)

Group 5—the “atheist” group (those who do not believe in God)

Researchers have found, in regards to the connection between religion and drug use, that the groups represented above have different views in regarding to dealing with substance use and abuse.  Among the young men in the religious group, 30% smoked cigarettes daily, 20% had smoked pot more than once a week and less than 1% had consumed ecstasy or cocaine in the past year.  In comparison, the young men in the atheist group, 51% smoked cigarettes, 36% smoked pot, 6% consumed ecstasy and 5% had used cocaine in the past year.

For those young men in the spiritual, unsure and agnostic groups, their results generally fell in the middle regarding both religious beliefs and consumption of addictive substances.  While the results between the religious and atheist group seem to be significant, it is to be noted that the sample sizes of the two groups were vastly different. There were 543 young men grouped into the religious group while there were 1650 young men that comprised the atheist group.

The figures above concerning religion and drug use indicate that research into addictive behaviors should not only consider risk factors but also protective factors.  Belief is considered, in the scope of this study concerning religion and drug use, to be a protective factor.  What is not known concerning the connection between religion and drug use is whether the differences can be attributed to the ethical values the young men in the study possessed or could be attributed to social control in relation to religion and drug use.

4 responses to “Religion and Drug Use

  • LaPortaMA

    10 years ago

    Interesting and positive, but the definitions of “religious”, etc. , are arbitrary and can miss entire dimensions. Also, I never read a university study that wasn’t biased if you know where to look.

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