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Rev Saude Publica. 2008 Apr;42(2):265-72.

[Religious intervention and recovery from drug addiction].

[Article in Portuguese]

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Centro Brasileiro de Informações sobre Drogas Psicotrópicas, Departamento de Psicobiologia, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.



To analyze the role of emerging religious interventions in the recovery from drug addiction.


An exploratory qualitative study carried out in the city of Sao Paulo, Southeastern Brazil, in 2004 and 2005. In-depth interviews were held with 85 former drug users who had turned to non-medical religious resources for the treatment of their drug addiction and who were free from drugs for at least six months. The religious groups included in the analysis were Catholics, Evangelicals and Spiritualists. The interviews contained questions relating to sociodemographic data, the religiosity of the interviewee, his or her history of drug consumption, medical treatment for drug addiction, religious treatment and prevention of drug consumption through religion.


There were differences between the religious groups in the way that the drug addict was supported. The group that most used religion as an exclusive form of treatment was the Evangelicals, who rejected the intervention of a doctor andr any kind of pharmacological treatment. The Spiritualists most turned to therapeutic support for alcohol dependence, as well as conventional treatment, on account of their greater purchasing power. Catholics generally relied exclusively on religious therapy, but were less likely to reject the possibility of medical treatment. The importance given to prayer as an anxiolytic method was common in the three treatments. Confessions and pardons--in the forms of (faith) conversions and penitence for Evangelicals and Catholics respectively--served to help to rebuild people's lives and restore their self-esteem.


According to the interviewees, what helped them to maintain their abstinence from drugs was more than just religious faith. Other factors included the support, positive pressure and welcoming offered by the group, and the offer to rebuild their lives with the unconditional support of religious leaders.

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