Methodist Beliefs On Drug And Alcohol Rehab
Like any other group of people 80 million strong, some Methodists struggle with substance use disorders (SUD) involving different drugs and alcohol which may require rehab. One of the principal beliefs in regard to addiction in the Methodist Church establishes that addiction can affect people of all different walks of life, regardless of their moral quality or socioeconomic standing. Unlike some other religious groups, the Methodist Church does not pressure their members into joining a specifically Methodist rehab.
Methodist Attitudes Towards Substance Abuse
The Church’s general attitude about drugs focuses on avoiding them whenever possible. The ideal situation as a practicing Methodist is abstaining from all possible intoxicants, which allows them to more fully experience the world God created.
While the UMC chooses an abstinence approach to drugs in general, they acknowledge and embrace the importance of medication. The role medicine plays in enhancing the quality of life and life expectancy across the globe qualifies any necessary or prescribed drugs as acceptable to take. This exception extends to drugs like Marijuana and Cocaine if they’re being used in their official, medical capacities.
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The Methodist Church treats alcohol as a recreational drug. Members of the church are advised to minimize their use, if not fully cut it out, in order to maximize their experience of God’s grace. The problems alcohol abuse is associated with (bodily harm, mental health issues, crime, etc.) all serve as arguments for avoiding the drink altogether. The nature of alcohol detox also contributes to the UMC’s compliance with rehab options, even if it’s not a Methodist rehab. Given the facts, as the Methodists understand them, they’ve provided an official stance on dealing with alcohol:
- “We urge individuals and local congregations to demonstrate active concern for alcohol abusers and their families. We encourage churches to support the care, treatment, and rehabilitation of problem drinkers.”
- “We urge churches to include the problems of alcohol and the value of abstinence as part of Christian education.”
- “We encourage individuals and local congregations to develop prevention education for family, church, and community. We encourage sound empirical research on the social effects of alcohol.”
- “We oppose the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages within the confines of United Methodist Church facilities and recommend that it be prohibited.”
- We ask individuals and local congregations to study and discuss the problem of driving while intoxicated and impaired by alcohol or other drugs, and we support legislation to reduce such activity.”
- “We direct the General Board of Discipleship and The United Methodist Publishing House to incorporate educational material on alcohol and other drug problems, including the material on prevention, intervention, treatment, and the value of abstinence throughout its graded literature.”
- “We expect United Methodist-related hospitals to treat the alcoholic person with the attention and consideration all patients deserve. We urge the worldwide health-care delivery system to follow this example.”
- “We urge all legislative bodies and health-care systems and processes to focus on and implement measures to help meet the special needs of those disproportionately affected by alcohol use.”
- “We favor laws to eliminate all advertising and promoting of alcohol beverages. We urge the General Board of Church and Society and local churches to increase efforts to remove all advertising of alcoholic beverages from the media. We urge special attention to curbing promotions of alcohol beverages on college campuses as well as racial minority communities.”
- “We urge the US Federal Trade Commission and agencies of other governments to continue developing better health hazard warning statements concerning the use of alcohol.”
- “We urge the United States government to improve inter-agency coordination of drug and alcohol abuse efforts so that there are uniform policies and regulations, and we urge the cooperation of all governments in these areas.”
Like alcohol, tobacco serves only to harm people in the eyes of the Church. Its proven and severe health risks give the UMC enough reason to develop a set of principles similar to their approach with alcohol:
- “We recommend that tobacco use be banned in all church facilities.”
- “We recommend a tobacco-free environment in all public areas.”
- “We recommend the prohibition of all commercial advertising of tobacco products.”
- “We support expanded research to discover the specific mechanisms of addiction to [Nicotine]. We urge the development of educational methods that effectively discourage the use of tobacco and methods to assist those who wish to stop using tobacco.”
- “We urge the Department of Agriculture and other government agencies to plan for and assist the orderly economic transition of the tobacco industry—tobacco growers, processors, and distributors—into industries more compatible with the general welfare of the people.”
- “We support comprehensive tobacco control policies and legislation that includes provisions to:
- Support The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the Global Tobacco Treaty and its provisions.
- Reduce the rate of youth smoking by increasing the price of cigarettes.
- Protect tobacco farmers by helping them shift from tobacco to other crops.
- Give the US Food and Drug Administration full authority to regulate [Nicotine] as a drug in the United States.
- Fund anti-tobacco research and advertising, as well as education and prevention campaigns.
Whether it’s a Sedative or a Stimulant, the UMC would rather parishioners avoid it. Marijuana occupies several categories within the Church’s system. It is both legal and illegal throughout the US depending on the state. Regardless of legality, they suggest avoiding it altogether in reference to recreational use.
While the Church warns against the recreational use of Marijuana, they acknowledge the possible health benefits that medical researchers found in the past few years of study. In cases when a doctor prescribes Marijuana, then the church acquiesces to its use. The same can be said for the rare occasions that call for the medical use of Cocaine, but recreational use is strictly warned against.
Common Questions About Rehab
Narcotics And Opioids
The role of Narcotics in treating pain qualifies them as a necessary evil in the eyes of the Church. Their importance as medication aside, this class of drugs creates dependency quickly, even when taken as prescribed. The damage caused by these types of drugs as seen in the Opioid Epidemic prompted the creation of another set of Methodist principles:
- “We oppose the use of all drugs, except in cases of appropriate medical supervision.”
- “We encourage the church to develop honest, objective, and factual drug education for children, youths, and adults as part of a comprehensive prevention education program.”
- “We urge the church to coordinate its efforts with ecumenical, interfaith, and community groups in prevention, rehabilitation, and policy statements.”
- “We encourage the annual conferences to recognize the unique impact of drugs and its related violence upon urban and rural areas and provide appropriate ministries and resources.”
- “We strongly encourage annual conferences to develop leadership training opportunities and resources for local church pastors and laity to help them with counseling individuals and families who have alcohol and other drug-related problems; counseling those bereaved by alcohol and other drug-related deaths and violence; and teaching stress management to church workers in communities with high alcohol and other drug activity.”
- “We urge redevelopment of more effective methods of treatment of drug abuse and addiction.”
- “We support government policies that restrict access to over-the-counter drugs such as ephedrine derivatives that can be converted to illegal and addictive drugs; for example, ‘[Crystal Meth].’”
- “We support government policies concerning drugs that are compatible with our Christian beliefs about the potential transformation of all individuals.”
- “We urge all United Methodist churches to work for a minimum legal drinking age of  years in their respective states/nations.”
- “We support strong, humane law-enforcement efforts against the illegal sale of all drugs, and we urge that those arrested for possession and use of illegally procured drugs be subject to education and rehabilitation.”
- “We note with deep concern that law enforcement against possession and use of illegally procured drugs has resulted in a dramatic increase in jail and prison populations, often consisting disproportionally of poor, minority, young persons, often due to huge sentencing disparities between possession of [Crack Cocaine] (the cheaper form, used more by poor minorities, where possession of only 5 grams is subject to a [5-year] mandatory minimum sentence) and possession of powder [Cocaine] (the more expensive and purer form where possession of 500 grams or more is necessary to invoke a [5-year] mandatory minimum sentence), even though the [2 forms] are pharmacologically identical, and therefor call for fairness in sentencing through reform of sentencing guidelines governing the possession and use of [them].”
Unlike other religious groups, Methodists believe that someone suffering from an addiction should seek professional help outside the church. The level of specialized care associated with rehabilitation and addiction compel them to avoid direct or sole involvement in the process. The health and social risks at stake when dealing with addiction compel the UMC to believe that finding help at rehab centers of any kind is preferable, and they don’t push members towards Methodist rehab options. When interacting with those struggling with substance use disorders, the UMC emphasizes kindness, compassion, and understanding.
Their commitment to health recovery extends beyond helping the individual into supporting those organizations which offer assistance to those in need. The UMC strives to support organizations and facilities that heal those dealing with use disorders. Over-legislation of drug charges also bothers the UMC. The war on drugs in the US has a track record of disproportionately targeting groups of poorer people and minorities. The Methodist statements on drug use all emphasize educating and rehabilitating people caught with drugs rather than punishing them.
Types Of Rehab
As a Christian denomination, Methodist churches suggest using faith as a tool for recovery. Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous that utilize a 12-step program including “a higher power” seem ideal. Specific Methodist rehab facilities do exist, but they may prove harder to find than a general, Christianity-based rehab. A Methodist rehab may focus more on compassion for yourself and those suffering around you to promote healing, rather than emphasizing the guilt and penitence some other religions prioritize in this situation.
You’re Not Alone
Battling a use disorder can instill feelings of hopelessness and guilt, but you don’t have to fight alone. Recovery works best when you’re receiving support and reaching out is the first step. Contact a treatment provider today.
Ashish Bhatt, MD, MRO
Doctor of Addiction Medicine
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Dr. Bhatt has been Addiction Center's Medical Content Director for more than three years, providing his expertise to ensure quality and accuracy.
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