Pubdate: Mon, 04 Apr 2016
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.
Author: Bradford Richardson


For a religion in which wine plays such a central role, Christianity 
may prove surprisingly effective at curbing drug use, according to a study.

Data analyzed by in "Drugs and Devotion: Comparing 
Substance Abuse by Believers and Nonbelievers" show a correlation 
between religious belief and a reluctance to experiment with narcotics.

Americans who said they are not religious are more likely to have 
used a host of recreational drugs, ranging from marijuana and alcohol 
to Ecstasy and heroin. Nonbelievers in the study, for instance, were 
12 times more likely to use LSD and more than four times as likely as 
than their religious counterparts to try cocaine in the past year.

Additionally, states with the lowest rates of religious belief had 
some of the highest rates of drug use. The least-religious state, 
Vermont, where only 32 percent of residents said religion is "very 
important" in their lives, had the third-highest rate of illicit drug 
use. The most religious state, Alabama, where 77 percent said faith 
plays a significant role in their lives, had the sixth-lowest rate of 
illicit drug use.

Greg Jao, director of campus engagement and vice president of 
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, said several components of 
Christianity, such as its emphasis on truth and comprehensive view of 
eternity, discourage nihilistic tendencies that may open the door to drug use.

"For me as a Christian, part of what my faith in Jesus does is it 
calls me to face reality ruthlessly in my own life and in the world 
around me," Mr. Jao said. "I think it changes my perspective and 
timeline. I'm challenged as a Christian to think in terms of eternity 
- - so, yes, this year or decade may be bad, but it's not the whole of 
my existence.

"And I think Christianity challenges you to actually experience God 
in the quotidian, day-to-day experience of life," he said. "So my 
need for an altered, super high is quite low because, in fact, while 
I may not always be happy, there's a deep experience of regular joy."

The study supports the notion that Christian theology discourages 
drug use. When asked for "very important" reasons not to use 
marijuana, 67 percent of religious eighth- and 10th-graders said it 
is against their faith. Nonbelievers in the study had little reason 
not to use marijuana. Only 27 percent of nonreligious high school 
students said it would violate their beliefs.

But Gen. Arthur Dean, chairman and CEO of Community Anti-Drug 
Coalitions of America, emphasized the role that community plays in 
snuffing out drug use.

"Being involved in a religious service is what we would call a 
protective factor, which means that you are less apt to get involved 
in drugs or other negative activities that young people are involved 
in, if you are involved in some kind of a faith community," Mr. Dean said.

"What we find is that involvement in structured activities, whether 
they be religious or whether they be sports or other kinds of 
activities, all serve as protective factors," he said. "I believe if 
you did research on them, you would find similar results that you 
found on religion."

The study also supports the hypothesis that communal norms best 
explain lower rates of drug use among the religious. Fifty-nine 
percent of religious high school students said their friends don't 
use marijuana, compared with 39 percent of nonreligious students; 62 
percent of religious students said their boyfriend or girlfriend 
would disapprove of drug use, compared with 42 percent of 
nonreligious students; and 81 percent of religious high school 
students said their parents would disapprove of marijuana, compared 
with 62 percent of nonreligious students.

The religious eighth- and 10th-graders were also more likely to say 
marijuana is not widely available and that they would not like being 
around others who do use the drug.

Although he acknowledged the crucial role that community plays in 
reinforcing norms, Mr. Jao said Christianity specifically provides a 
remedy against addiction that other groups may not.

He said Christians believe they are "addicted to sin," comparing the 
faith's fundamental tenants of resisting temptation, confessing 
wrongdoing and transformation to addiction-fighting programs such as 
Alcoholics Anonymous.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom