Background: Spirituality is a topic of increasing interest to clinicians and researchers interested in addiction.
Aims: To clarify the way(s) in which the concept of spirituality is understood and employed in practice by clinicians and researchers who publish papers on addiction and spirituality, and to develop a definition or description of spirituality which might receive widespread assent within the field.
Design: A descriptive study of 265 published books and papers on spirituality and addiction.
Findings: The study revealed a diversity and lack of clarity of understanding of the concept of spirituality. However, it was possible to identify 13 conceptual components of spirituality which recurred within the literature. Among these conceptual components of spirituality, 'relatedness' and 'transcendence' were encountered most frequently. 'Meaning/purpose', 'wholeness (non-)religiousness' and 'consciousness' were encountered less frequently in the papers on addiction and spirituality than in an unsystematically ascertained sample of papers concerned with spirituality in relation to other areas of psychology and medicine. However, biases in the literature are notable. For example, the great majority of publications are from North America and the field is dominated by interest in Twelve-Step and Christian spirituality.
Conclusion: Spirituality, as understood within the addiction field, is currently poorly defined. Thirteen conceptual components of spirituality which are employed in this field are identified provisionally and a working definition is proposed as a basis for future research.