Forgiveness and Alcohol Use: Applying a Specific Spiritual Principle to Substance Abuse Problems

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Abstract

Objectives

To show forgiveness to be a central component in substance abuse and recovery and to encourage the empirical investigation of such realtionships.

Methods

Literature reviewed and synthesized to support the role of forgiveness in addiction and recovery and to justify its empirical investigation.

Results

The construct and process of forgiveness are present in 12-Step Facilitation Therapy, Motivational Enhancement Therapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Coping Skills Therapy, and other psychotherapies applicable to the treatment of substance abuse. Nevertheless, few studies exist to provide empirical support for these relationships.

Conclusions

Religion and spirituality can have a salutary effect on substance use disorders. However, little is known regarding the effects of specific manifestations of religiosity and spirituality. Forgiveness, decreasing negative responses to offense irrespective of interaction with the offender, has been argued to be highly relevant to problematic substance use. Although the process of forgiveness is conceptually found in empirically validated forms of treatment for alcohol problems, little quantitative evidence exists to verify and illuminate the relationships between forgiveness and substance abuse. Empirical investigation into the basic, indirect, contextual, and interventional relationships between forgiveness and substance use disorders, including development, maintenance, and recovery, is warranted and encouraged.

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