Hindu Beliefs on Drugs and Alcohol, Addiction, and Recovery
Addiction affects people all over the world, including people who practice the religion of Hinduism. There are over 1 billion Hindus in the world. Most Hindus live in India and Nepal, and there are also substantial Hindu minorities throughout Asia and the English-speaking world. Recent surveys indicate that more people have begun to struggle with drug abuse and addiction in Hindu-majority nations over the course of the past decade, possibly because of the worldwide opioid crisis.
Hinduism is perhaps the oldest religion in the world, and Hindus who consider the topic of addiction often seek answers from their spiritual traditions. Most Hindu groups today advocate abstinence from drugs, since many gurus have taught that mind-altering substances harm a person’s spiritual wellbeing. The Hindu religion emphasizes lasting, inward transformation, not the temporary escape that drugs may offer. Mahatma Gandhi, perhaps the most famous Hindu leader, was a harsh critic of all drugs and wanted them to be banned in India. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a modern Hindu teacher, tells his students that drug abuse arises because “human societies have failed to make the experience of life worthwhile.”
Both Hindus and non-Hindus who have overcome addiction can testify that life is better and more worthwhile without addiction to drugs and alcohol. A Hindu who struggles with addiction can benefit from modern addiction treatment methods while also finding inspiration in Hinduism’s call for inner peace, balance, and sobriety.
A Hindu Approach to Overcoming Addiction
A Hindu approach to addiction treatment is distinctly religious, and it may emphasize overcoming addiction as a way of living in harmony with the dharma. For Hindus, addiction treatment may involve meditation and other spiritual exercises that complement a standard program of detox, medication, and therapy. Since Hinduism is a religion which bestows importance on the welfare of the community, addiction experts believe that Hindus may benefit more from helping each other than from following self-oriented 12-step programs. However, the spiritual elements in a 12-step program could be helpful for some Hindus who want to rely upon a Higher Power while they make progress toward recovery.
Additionally, Hindus can reach out to religious leaders for spiritually-focused guidance and support while they work to overcome addiction. In most Hindu communities, even in nations where Hindus are only a minority, there are yoga teachers and temple priests available to offer help. Outside of India and Nepal, most addiction treatment centers are not Hindu and do not offer Hindu programs, but Hindus who are battling addiction can combine non-Hindu treatment methods, support from Hindu family and friends, and their own spiritual values to successfully break free from substance abuse.
Addiction Treatment in India
About 80% of the world’s Hindus live in India. Like every other country in the world, India faces challenges with drug abuse. According to a 2019 report from the Indian government, “findings indicate that despite the existence of strict drug control laws and a multitude of agencies working towards drug supply control, a wide variety of the controlled drugs are being used and a sizeable number of Indians suffer from addiction to these drugs.” The report also states that Indians are increasingly abusing heroin, prescription opioids, and other synthetic drugs.
Fortunately, there are treatment centers throughout India where people can get help with fighting addiction to drugs and alcohol. In addition to the National Drug Dependence Treatment Center in Ghaziabad, there are rehab and “de-addiction” facilities in every Indian state. Through the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the Indian government subsidizes addiction recovery programs in state-run hospitals and trains healthcare professionals to respond to addiction as a health problem. The government is also working to establish Drug Treatment Clinics to provide free, outpatient care for addiction patients and medication for managing withdrawal. The network of resources in India for addiction recovery is growing. When someone has a substance use disorder, they are much more likely to overcome it with professional treatment.
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