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Addiction Among Adolescents and Christianity View

Introduction

Addiction is wickedness that deprives people of their freedom and will. It makes them weak, creating false desires for substances. Addictive habits seize control of human lives, making people incapable of making their own decisions and often leading to destructive behavior. While science looks at addiction from an empirical perspective, often disregarding the issues of morality, Christianity and faith offer another perspective on addiction. It emphasizes empathy, emotions, feelings, understanding, and the necessity of principles of right and wrong, particularly when dealing with addiction among adolescents. This paper gives an insight into the problem of addiction among young people, highlighting the spiritual and moral aspects of the phenomenon. It focuses on the Christian perspective on addiction, reflecting on the ways the Christian faith offers young people who deal with addictive habits. The analysis relies on scientific studies about addictive habits and scientific explanations of the adolescence period.

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The research paper is divided into four parts. The first three parts describe the most common addictive behaviors among today’s youth: alcoholism, illegal substance use, and cell phone and Internet addiction. Empirical data by OECD, UNODC, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the Pew Research Center is used to describe the most important relevant trends. The fourth part provides a Christian reflection on addictive behaviors, introduces Christian intervention programs, such as the 12-step program, and emphasizes the role of a pastor in the Christian approach to rehabilitation. The paper discusses the importance of moral principles and understanding the terms “sin” and the role of God in the rehabilitation of young addicts. It highlights the necessity of complex treatment of adolescents, considering the meaning of a minor’s family ties, education, culture, and social environment.

Addictive Habits among Adolescents

Many addictive behaviors develop in a person’s life in their adolescent years. The studies suggest this occurs due to biological changes occurring in the brain. Developmental changes affect the parts of the brain involved in motivation and control processes, which make young people prone to risky behavior (Ryan 2020, 27). Considering that younger people are less known to judge each other for consuming substances, such as alcohol and tobacco, the environment rarely becomes a discouraging factor in developing addictive behavior (Westreich 2017, 15). The motivation to consume addictive substances thus often remains beyond the biological capabilities of a young person. Simultaneously, developing an addiction in young years frequently results in systemic addictive substances in adulthood, not to mention the detrimental effect of habits on people’s health. This part of the study takes a closer look at different addictive behaviors popular among today’s adolescents, compares them with each other, and analyzes possible reasons why these behaviors get established in a person’s character.

Drinking

Teenage drinking has been a negative global trend in the past decades. However, more recent studies suggest that alcohol consumption by underage youth has declined in many countries in recent years (Pape et al. 2017, 98). There are various explanations for why this occurs, yet none of them has been scientifically confirmed. Among the suggested reasons why alcohol consumption has dropped among adolescents are the digital revolution or a decline in certain parenting practices. Still, the alcoholism of minors remains a common problem in many countries. While there is no scientifically proven connection between adolescent alcoholism and religious affiliation, European countries display an alarmingly high number of young alcohol consumers (Pape et al. 2017, 101). In today’s world, religion is not the only cultural influence that can impact a person’s addictive habits. Other factors include, for example, globalization and socioeconomic factors on the public approach to the problem of adolescent alcohol addiction.

Understanding links between culture and alcoholism plays a crucial role in analyzing global trends, such as teenage drinking. Knowing them helps to understand the influence of the environment on developing addictive behaviors and develop relevant intervention mechanisms. Spiritual coping mechanisms are an efficient tool in intervention programs for minors affected by alcoholism (Kuzubova et al. 2021, 2662). According to National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 4.2 million people from 12 to 20 in America reported binge drinking at least once in the past month (NIAAA 2021). Another recent report by OECD shows that one in five teenagers aged 15 years old experienced drunkenness at least twice in life. It also notes that drinking in childhood is predictive of future drinking, raising the probability of developing addiction in the future to up to 68 percent (NIAAA 2021). Thousands of people die each year from underage drinking, and alcoholism is one of the most common causes of lethal automobile accidents involving young people (NIAAA 2021). Unfortunately, many scientific studies tend to overlook the impact of Christianity on drinking habits among adolescents. This research paper aims to improve this misjudgment, suggesting that spirituality and morality are essential aspects of coping with addictions.

The moral sides of alcoholism in adolescents include lies, shame, and fear. Apart from severe dangers to health, alcoholism of underage people leads to problems in school, contributes to destructive behavior, and seriously complicates family relationships (Grossman 2017, 47). While Christianity and the Bible do not explicitly forbid alcohol consumption, the Christian perspective on alcohol-affected immoral behavior is very well-known. Today, the perspectives of Christian scholars on abstention from alcohol vary. Still, the general perception of the destructive impact of alcohol consumption on minors prevails regardless of the country and church affiliation. Christian scholars support civil initiatives and government approaches that would limit alcohol use among teenage drinkers; however, the Christian perspective focuses on the role of family and a pastor in forming teen’s relation to drinking.

Drug Abuse

Another very alarming global trend is substance use among adolescents. The 2020 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey of drug use and attitudes in middle and high school students reveals that teen use of nicotine and marijuana remains very high (American Addiction Centers, 2020). Despite that the general levels of substance use among American teens remain low, the report warns about the impact of drug use disorders on youth. For example, there has been an alarming increase in deaths involving stimulant drugs and opioids in the US, and nonfatal stimulant overdoses of teenagers are also on the rise (American Addiction Centers, 2021). Simultaneously, there is a lack of research on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on drug abuse among teenagers and their access to counseling, prevention, and treatment services.

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A significant body of research is available to analyze the connection between religiosity and drug abuse in young adults. Unlike alcohol consumption, substance use is a less widespread phenomenon, yet it frequently becomes the center of the public’s attention, as often the substances are illegal in many countries. Thus, drug abuse of minors is directly linked to criminality and illicit drug trade and demands direct control measures and law enforcement action. Numerous studies have revealed religiosity’s protective effect against substance use, including for youth (Jenkins et al. 2017, 53). Still, more research is needed about the direct impact of the Christian faith on young adult behavioral patterns and substance use.

With the legalization of cannabis in some states contributing to changing attitudes to its use throughout the country, legal measures that define marijuana trade and possession greatly vary from state to state. For example, in Connecticut, minors under 18 cannot be arrested for simple marijuana possession. While legal regulations of marijuana vary in every state, the general correlation between religiosity rates and substance use is clear from sociological studies. For example, the use of LSD is 12 times higher among non-religious people than among those who identify themselves as religious (American Addiction Centers, 2020). Generally, more religious states also demonstrate lower levels of alcohol and substance consumption.

Drug abuse among minors leads to a wide range of problems both for an individual and society. Young people’s innocent desire for experimentation can result in years-long destructive habits that dramatically influence health, social and family life, and academic performance. Drugs can quickly impact the developing human brain by affecting memory and perception of pleasure and joy (Ryan 2020, 55). The biological aspects of drug addiction make it particularly difficult to cure. A Christian approach to drug addiction includes such crucial aspects as intentional harm to one’s body and an understanding of intoxication and sobriety in the context of moral principles (Counted and Miller 2018, 1). Substance abuse is explained as an evil, destructive temptation, while sobriety offers ways to exercise love, support, and understanding, and God provides the way out of addiction through love.

Families of young addicts may feel confused and trapped as they deal with moral aspects of substance abuse. The pastor’s role is to empower these families and emphasize the importance of love, forgiveness, and faith in family relationships. For a young addict, it can be very dangerous to be left alone to be dealing with the habit without moral support from loved ones. The Christian intervention in these cases relies on understanding forgiveness, courage, and trust in God’s care. The practice of Christian intervention deals primarily with improving family relationships affected by the addiction and offering transportation of an addict to a place for rehabilitation. In this part, it is necessary to add that adequate religious intervention is impossible without professional treatment.

Cell Phone and Internet Addiction

Addiction to the digital world is a rapidly growing new worldwide trend. Compulsive usage of smartphones, laptops, and other electronic devices is another form of addiction behavior, similar to gambling or online gaming. Excessive use of electronic devices by adolescents can affect their daily life, including academic performance. It also alters their perception of public and private relationships and makes them vulnerable to cybercrimes. Digital addiction can be a reason for depression, anxiety, and stress among young adults (Shim 2021, 1780). The perils arising from digital addiction are a reason for concern from a Christian perspective, as it affects young people’s spiritual growth.

Limiting the usage of smartphones and other electronic devices is a common practice in parenting. Many people in their teenage years still need to learn the aspects of emotional intellect to evaluate information and content they find online. Still, the studies show that 45 percent of teenagers say they use the Internet “almost constantly,” and 59 percent of parents believe their children are addicted to their devices (Shim 2021, 1781). While smartphone and digital addiction is generally viewed as less alarming than alcoholism or drug abuse, it can be destructive to daily life and relationships and lead to severe psychological issues. It also makes a young person vulnerable to cybercrime and privacy violations. While approximately 95 percent of adolescents in America have access to a smartphone, it can be hard to distinguish digital addiction from regular device usage. As teenagers often can be secretive about their digital behavior, it can take time for a parent to acknowledge the problem.

Several specific behavioral patterns characterize cell phone and internet addiction. For example, there is a noticeable lack of control over the electronic device, judging by frequency, intensity, and context. Checking a phone becomes a number one priority in a young person’s life to the point it becomes uncomfortable to perform other daily activities or, particularly, to study. Alarmingly, the addiction prevails over harmful side effects (such as a decline in family relationships or academic progress) (Shim 2021, 1785). A teen also becomes anxious, angry, and even violent if the device is inaccessible. While the Internet and online connection are designed to enhance our communication abilities, digital addiction is a big problem, particularly among young people, as it can be tough to address it adequately. Depriving a child entirely of access to the digital realm can be seen as a deprivation of freedom and privacy violation. Christian perspective on the matter focuses on digital threats to young people in the online world and the potential negative impact of Internet addiction on a person’s spiritual growth (Shim 2021, 1783). It also highlights the dangers of narcissism and self-worship linked to people’s digital behavior in general.

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A Christian intervention in the case of digital addiction is, therefore, similar to the church’s approach to alcoholism and substance use. Three types of addictive behavior described in the article deal with the same problem of adolescents’ inability to deal with their own addiction independently. Christian intervention encourages not simple withdrawal from an addictive behavior but emphasizes the meaning of God and spiritual growth in one’s life. It demands acknowledging and confessing one’s sins and developing new, constructive thoughts and behavior, focusing on basic Christian principles of love, forgiveness, faith, and courage.

Implications for Christian Pastoral Guidance and Intervention Plan

Addictive habits in adolescents represent a big challenge for Christian pastors. While addictions’ destructive impact affects not only an individual but their loved ones, the role of a pastor and a church is to reconnect a young individual with God, acknowledge sinful behavior, and reinstall one’s perception of oneself as a God’s creature (Counted and Miller 2018, 3). As statistics show, states with higher levels of religiosity demonstrate lower levels of drug and alcohol addictions. It is a very encouraging trend in a general understanding of religion and its influence on the actual behavior of a congregation. The pastor’s role as a mediator and a spiritual leader is very demanding, yet it directly affects the life of his young parishioners.

Christian intervention in the case of addictive behaviors among adolescents can vary its design, but it is most effective when combined with other types of therapy and treatment. An addict’s family members and family relationships play a significant role in the recovery process. As a lot depends on one’s family, some Christian intervention programs demand an addict’s relocation to a special facility, where their addictive behavior can be monitored by professional staff (Shim 2021, 1786). A relocation facility can be a camp, a hospital, or a special center, where a young addict can move to minimize the stress of their environment that can influence the recovery process. Also, it enables communication with other addicts; sharing one’s problems with others and discussing the Bible and God together should facilitate the recovery process.

There are many approaches to Christian intervention in case of addiction. Still, usually, they make up a combination of regular treatment (medical treatment, therapy, exercise) with counseling sessions with a pastor, studying Bible, and praying for recovery. Like other addiction programs, Christian rehabs usually include four stages of the recovery process: assessment, detox, treatment, and aftercare. Christian addiction counselors frequently use a traditional 12-steps rehabilitation model. A Christian 12-Step Program for adolescent addicts particularly emphasizes the destructive impact of sinful behavior on an addict’s life, the role of God, who judges you, and the importance of self-acceptance as a God’s creature. It focuses on the feelings of remorse for sinful, godless behavior and feelings of responsibility for causing others to suffer. Repentance is based on confession and turning to God for forgiveness (Shim 2021, 1785). Experiencing God’s mercy and grace should be supported by a pastor’s navigation of an addict’s feelings, which is needed to understand God’s will and develop a biblical vision of God.

Also, Christian counselors must apply a systemic perspective to analyze sin and its relation to addiction. A superficial understanding of biblical terms encourages studying Bible in the Christian rehabilitation process. While being a prevalent and productive form of addiction treatment, the 12-step program has certain limitations when applied to adolescents. For teenagers, family ties and developmental needs are of overwhelming importance in the rehabilitation process. Pastors should also focus on young people’s necessity to socialize to find an adequate approach to implementing an intervention program.

Conclusion

The addictive behaviors of young people are a widespread problem in today’s world. While drinking and substance abuse trends tend to decline in most countries, the phenomenon is still alarmingly high worldwide. Alcoholism and drug addiction are well-studied problems, yet today’s existing body of research lacks data on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young addicts’ access to therapy. Another relatively new form of addiction, cell phone and Internet addiction, is a less studied trend. Like other addictive behaviors, digital addiction strongly affects the daily life of a young person and can lead to severe psychological issues and a decline in academic performance. Christian counselors’ goal is to help adolescent addicts understand their problems, acknowledge sinful behavior, and find a solution through God’s mercy.

This research paper explained three widespread addictions among young people from a Christian perspective, relying on statistical data about each one. As it deals with the problem of addiction among young people, it emphasizes the importance of family relationships for adolescent addicts. All three addictions (alcoholism, substance abuse, and digital addiction) are observed from a Christian perspective, focusing on understanding God, sin, mercy, and the moral aspects of addictive behaviors. In the Christian approach to rehabilitation, the role of the pastor is crucial for navigating a young person’s understanding of God and his power. The paper critically evaluates the existing studies, as the scientific approach rarely emphasizes religious aspects in treating addictions. Simultaneously, empirical data shows that higher levels of religiosity correlate with lower levels of addictive behaviors among the population. In the end, the research paper introduces Christian intervention programs for addicted adolescents, such as traditional 12-step programs, and highlights the necessity of comprehensive, multidimensional intervention for treating young addicts.

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Jenkins, Emily K, Allie Slemon, and Rebecca J Haines-saah. 2017. “Developing harm reduction in the context of youth substance use: insights from a multi-site qualitative analysis of young people’s harm minimization strategies”. Harm reduction journal 14 (1): 53-53. Web.

Kuzubova, Kateryna, John R Knight, and Sion K Harris. 2021. “Adolescent Gender and Age Differences in Religiously and Spiritually Motivated Types of Forgiveness and the Relationship to Depressive Symptoms”. Journal of religion and health 60 (4): 2662-2676. Web.

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Pape, Hilde, Ingeborg Rossow, and Geir Scott Brunborg. 2018. “Adolescents drink less: How, who and why? A review of the recent research literature”. Drug and alcohol review 37 (S1): 98-114. Web.

Shim, Jung Yeon. 2021. “The study of a Christian 12-Step Program for Christian Smartphone-Addicted Adolescents: A Biblical Perspective”. Journal of religion and health 60 (3): 1780-1795. Web.

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Wolf, Ryan. 2020. Addictions. New York, NY: Rosen Publishing Group.

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