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Recent Dev Alcohol. 2008;18:125-40.

The concept of spirituality in relation to addiction recovery and general psychiatry.

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  • 1Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, NYU School of Medicine, New York, 10016, USA.


This chapter is directed at defining the nature of spirituality and its relationship to empirical research and clinical practice. A preliminary understanding of the spiritual experience can be achieved on the basis of diverse theoretical and empirically grounded sources, which will be delineated: namely, physiology, psychology, and cross-cultural sources. Furthermore, the impact of spirituality on mental health and addiction in different cultural and clinical settings is explicated regarding both beneficial and compromising outcomes. Illustrations of its application in addiction and general psychiatry are given: in meditative practices, Alcoholics Anonymous, and treatment programs for addiction singly and comorbid with major mental illness. Given its prominence in Alcoholics Anonymous and related Twelve-Step groups, spirituality plays an important role in the rehabilitation of many substance-dependent people. The issue of spirituality, however, is prominent within contemporary culture as well in the form of theistic orientation, as evidenced in a probability sampling of American adults, among whom 95% of respondents reply positively when asked if they believe in "God or a universal spirit." Responses to a follow-up on this question suggest that this belief affects the daily lives of the majority (51%) of those sampled, as they indicated that they had talked to someone about God or some aspect of their faith or spirituality within the previous 24 h (Gallup, 2002).

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