Objective: To conduct a pilot study of the effect of intercessory prayer on patients entering treatment for alcohol abuse or dependence.
Design: In addition to standard treatment, 40 patients admitted to a public substance abuse treatment facility for treatment of alcohol problems who consented to participate were randomized to receive or not receive intercessory prayer (double-blind) by outside volunteers. Assessments were conducted at baseline, 3 months, and 6 months.
Results: No differences were found between prayer intervention and nonintervention groups on alcohol consumption. Compared with a normative group of patients treated at the same facility participants in the prayer study experienced a delay in drinking reduction. Those who reported at baseline that a family member or friend was already praying for them were found to be drinking significantly more at 6 months than were those who reported being unaware of anyone praying for them. Greater frequency of prayer by the participants themselves was associated with less drinking, but only at months 2 and 3.
Conclusion: Intercessory prayer did not demonstrate clinical benefit in the treatment of alcohol abuse and dependence under these study conditions. Prayer may be a complex phenomenon with many interacting variables.