Is salvation a cure for addiction?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on January 28th, 2011 - Last updated: July 3rd, 2019
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My 17-year-old daughter has been taking amphetamines, marijuana, cocaine, and possibly other drugs, for approximately 7 months. In the last month, she has been “saved” and baptized in church, and has dropped the “bad influence friends” Now she says she is experiencing cravings and needs help. How serious would her addiction be?


Dear Anonymous:

If your daughter wants help, ask her what kind of help she thinks would work for her – joining a young people’s Christian group, having psychological counseling, and so on. I do not like most drug treatment programs for young people.

Having cravings is not unusual. If she is not taking anything now, most people would say your daughter is not addicted. The issue is relapse. Here the questions are (1) how committed is she to her new lifestyle, (2) how much satisfaction is she getting from it, (3) how ensconced in it is she (how many activities, how much time, how rewarding for her, how many new friends and connections, how much she is accepted), (4) if she should make a false step and take drugs again, you and she need a plan for renewing her vows. That is, she should be aware – not that she should take a drug again – but that if she ever does, she can immediately return to the fold. Otherwise, if she slips, she can get so guilty that she is afraid to renew her sobriety and to think that she has sinned or let everyone down. Actually, in many cases, if there is a brief slip, the person is able to see that taking drugs is not a positive experience for her, and thus the slip can actually recement her vows. This is a fine line to draw – knowing you shouldn’t take drugs again but that if you do it is not the end of the world – but think about how to do it.

Another possibility is that being saved is also not a permanent resting place for your daughter. Her announcement that she is weakening may be a statement that she is finding that the saved lifestyle is wearing thin and is less rewarding than initially. Someone might say that she is using being saved as an addictive replacement for drug use, and that she may need to outgrow this phase. Are you religious? Your daughter may need to explore alternative non-using lifestyles in addition to religion.

Best, Stanton

Thank-you for your very prompt and helpful, informative reply. It was most appreciated. I have never had any experience with this problem in my family before. Yes we are religious, and do have faith in the power of prayer too. I am a Registered Nurse and like to be as informed as possible on health problems in my family. Your website is very interesting. I’m glad that I discovered it.

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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