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Better Kind of High: How Religious Commitment Reduces Drug Use Among Poor Urban Teens

NCJ Number
Byron R. Johnson
Date Published
30 pages
This study examined the effect of religious commitment on the drug-taking behavior of American youth.
Drug use among America's youth is unacceptably high. Research has indicated that one of the factors leading to the abuse of drugs among youth lies in their neighborhood. Simply living in disadvantaged neighborhoods puts youth at risk for many deleterious outcomes, including drug abuse. The research, however, remains relatively silent on protective factors that keep youth from engaging in deleterious behaviors despite their location in disadvantaged neighborhoods. The author used standard multivariate statistical analysis to analyze data from the longitudinal National Youth Survey, which involved 1,725 study participants aged 11 to 17. Key variables under consideration included illegal drug use, neighborhood disorder measures, individual religious commitment, family bonds, school bonds, peer drug-use, pro-drug attitudes, and demographic information. Main findings indicated that individual religious commitment reduced the effects of neighborhood disorder on the drug-taking behavior of youth. Drug abuse was further reduced by forming close bonds with family, school, and with friends who did not engage in drug abuse. However, the effect of religious commitment operated independently of social and family bonds and could provide positive guidance in the face of weak social support networks. In conclusion, the author asserts that faith-based organizations should not be overlooked as a resource for social services for at-risk youth because study results indicate that religious commitment can mitigate the deleterious neighborhood effects on the country's large population of at-risk youth. Appendix, endnotes