People With Drinking Problems May Turn to Clergy for Help

Nearly 15 percent sought advice from trusted religious leaders, study found

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WEDNESDAY, July 21 (HealthDay News) -- Many people afflicted with alcohol abuse problems turn to their clergy for counsel, new research reveals.

Although getting help from alcohol abuse professionals is a more common route to take, nearly 15 percent of those coping with alcohol-related issues seek comfort through clergy services, the study indicated.

"Clergy are in a unique position to notice changes in behavior over time," co-author Brian Perron, an assistant professor of social work at the University of Michigan, said in a university news release.

"Their roles as senior leaders of churches, their embodiment of important tenants of their faiths, and their formal roles as caregivers of their congregations also lend clergy considerable credibility, particularly within African American communities. Clergy are often seen as being deeply committed to their congregants and willing to honor desires for confidentiality," Perron added.

The research team's observations are published in the July/August issue of the American Journal on Addictions.

After examining the habits of 1,910 people coping with alcohol-related problems, the study authors found that most of those individuals who turned to their clergy also sought out professional help. Only 0.5 percent sought counsel from clergy services alone.

Being black or middle-aged (between 35 and 54 years old) increased the likelihood of seeking a religious leader's advice, as was having a lifetime history of alcohol dependence, a major depressive disorder, and/or having a personality disorder, the investigators found.

The researchers, from the University of Michigan Health System and Saint Louis University, suggested that clergy are in an ideal position to help, given that they are involved in the community, know their congregants well and engage with them regularly.

More information

For more on alcohol abuse treatment options, visit the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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