Study: Young Adults Who Attend Religious Services Experiment Less With Alcohol, Drugs

Regular attendance at religious services can reduce experimentation with alcohol and drugs, a Baylor study has found (Creative Commons photo by Fabio)
Regular attendance at religious services can reduce experimentation with alcohol and drugs, a Baylor study has found (Creative Commons photo by Fabio)

But adult addicts say churches need to present a loving, relevant God to young people to reduce risks of substance abuse and addiction.

Young people are less likely to try alcohol and drugs if they attend religious services regularly and self-identify as religious, a new Baylor University study has found.

The study suggests that youth who feel connected to a “higher power” may experience more purpose in life, and therefore be more inclined to avoid chemical substances when faced with hardships in life.

But that’s only going to be true in churches and families where God is presented as loving and forgiving and not as a judgmental rule giver, according to some adult Christians who are now in recovery.

In interviews with ABPnews/Herald, they warned against seeing church and youth group attendance alone as antidotes to the lure of drugs and alcohol. Those recovering from substance abuse say they became addicts and alcoholics despite consistent worship attendance and strong identities as Christians.

Even the Baylor study acknowledges its findings don’t hold true for all youth — a lesson North Carolinian Ben Hawkins learned all too well.

Hawkins, a member of two churches including First Baptist Church in Wilmington, N.C., said he felt continuously depressed and disconnected from God growing up, despite regular attendance at Mass and other events at the Catholic parish in which he was raised.

It didn’t take him long to find substitutes.

“All my stuff started when I was 12 — that was the first time I got drunk and that’s when I had my first joint,” Hawkins said.

His alcohol habit grew to include the use of cocaine, prescription medications and other drugs. It all resulted in being jailed 10 times for DUI, five of which resulted in convictions.

But plugging into a 12-step recovery program and into church has turned Hawkins’ life around, he said.

Hawkins said he isn’t sure that anything would have prevented his descent into addiction because “I am wired this way.” But it might have helped if the religious environment he was raised in had presented faith to him in a more meaningful way.

“Keep learning about God interesting,” he advised churches and parents. “Keep the kids engaged — that gives them a head start.”

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SOURCE: Associated Baptist Press
Jeff Brumley

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