Using the Virginia Twin Registry as a data base, researcher Kendler (1997) investigated the effects of personal involvement in religion on substance use and dependence. The study found that personal devotion acted as a buffer against life stress and that personal religious conservatism was inversely related to the amount of current alcohol use and lifetime risk of smoking. Membership in a conservative religious institution was further associated with a decreased lifetime risk of major depression.
For years, beginning in earnest with Freud and continuing in its most malignant form with figures like Albert Ellis, members of the psychology community have attributed all manner of psychological and social ills to religion. Clearly, this research suggests that the opposite may be true and that religion may play a helpful role in protecting people from life stress and risk of substance abuse.
Kendler, K.S. (1997). Religion, psychopathology, and substance use and abuse: A multimeasure, genetic, epidemiologic study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 154, 322-329.