Adolescents and Spirituality in Addiction Recovery: A Path Towards Healing

Boy healing in addiction recoveryOur adolescent years are often such a confusing time as our mind, body and spirit is developing, and substance abuse can only further complicate this. Research shows that the adolescent brain lacks critical thinking skills, and teens are at heightened risk to pursue risky endeavors because their brain is still developing these areas that would otherwise help them consider the consequences of these actions. Not only is the adolescent brain still developing during this time, but they’re more impressionable; peer pressure accounts for a huge part of substance use among teens, and their environment – both in the community and at home – can also weigh heavily on their likelihood for substance abuse.

Some adolescents abuse substances because they feel alone in the issues their facing, while others are looking for a sense of direction, and substances may seem to resolve that issue temporarily. The utmost healing occurs for adolescents who experiencing love, community and service in a holistic aspect – their mind, body and spirit.

How Addiction Affects the Mind, Body and Spirit

Mind emphasizes that in addition to the mood swings, the brain develops in an uneven pattern, from the back of the brain to the front. Because of this, adolescents struggle with reasoning and impulses, which makes them more susceptible to addiction. The brain is made up of billions of nerve cells, and the signals that get passed between these nerve cells are sent through neurotransmitters – some of which send signals of pain or pleasure. When adolescents abuse substances, a surge of dopamine (a “feel-good” chemical) floods the brain, and, over time, the adolescent brain becomes dependent on these substances – and if a teen stops substance abuse, they’re likely to experience irritability, tiredness and other withdrawal symptoms.


The body has become used to these substances, and a number of physical effects may be visible, such as:

  • Noticeable tiredness
  • Constricted pupils
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Red, flushed color to the face
  • And more

Many parents may begin to recognize a different “smell” on their adolescent or in their bedroom, as some teens may attempt to “cover up” their substance abuse with sprays or perfumes.


During this stage in adolescence, youth are still learning about who they are and how they fit into society. Substances can mask some of this development by leading many teens to continue down a path that significantly disrupts their happiness and health in the future; one individual shared his story of struggling with addiction as a teen via Here is an excerpt from his story:

“When you’re growing up and you’re falling into a chaotic pit of mental health issues, you can often feel alone. You definitely feel like an outcast. You feel like you’re the only person in the world who’s going through this.”

Spirituality is a topic that goes undiscussed in many families, but treatment that focuses on this – as well as the mind and body – can truly transform an adolescent’s life.

Spirituality and Adolescent Recovery

A 2014 study published in the journal Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly found that when spirituality is addressed in adolescent treatment, they’re more likely to not only relate to a more spiritual side of themselves but they’re also likely to remain abstinent after treatment as well. Rather than feeling as though they’re the only one in the world struggling with the issues they face, teens experience more prosocial behaviors when spirituality is addressed, such as:

  • Exhibiting greater care for others
  • Volunteerism
  • Feeling part of a community
  • Experiencing greater clarity of their purpose in life
  • And more

Spirituality can be uplifted in a multitude of ways, including 12-Step programs. In 2017, researchers compared 10 sessions of motivational enhancement therapy/cognitive behavioral therapy to 12-Step facilitation for 59 adolescents in addiction recovery. After 3, 6 and 9 months of assessing the results between adolescent groups, the researchers found that 12-Step facilitation helped teens remain abstinent longer – a sincere concern that many families have while their teen is in recovery.

As The Association for Addiction Professionals notes, spiritual concerns (such as feeling alone in the world, lacking purpose or having trouble caring for others) cannot be fixed with substances. Teens learn that becoming part of a community, helping others and receiving support in return, they can heal from addiction.

Seek Help Today

Don’t wait any longer to get your adolescent help for substance abuse. Recovery is right around the corner, and with a team of healthcare professionals who truly care, they’ll be on their way towards happier, healthier living. Call Cumberland Heights today.

Adolescent Recovery of Cumberland Heights (ARCH) originally began in 1985 when there were few other adolescent programs like it in the country. In 2019, we’re expanding our continuum of services with ARCH Academy, a unique program located in Kingston Springs that offers 60 days to 6 months of residential care to adolescent boys ages 14-18 who are struggling with alcohol and/or drug addiction. This new program stems from Cumberland Heights, which has been around since 1966, and is located in Nashville, Tennessee. The adolescent age is a critical time for development, making this a crucial time of positive influence. For more information, call us today at 1-800-646-9998.

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