Emergency Department Patients are Receptive to Prayer-Based Interventions to Reduce Alcohol Use

  • Susie Ahn
  • Michael Mello
  • Janette Baird
  • Valerie Strezsak
  • Esther K. ChooEmail author
Original Paper


Previous studies show that elements of spirituality, including prayer and religious services, may contribute to reductions in harmful alcohol use. The objective of this study was to assess the acceptability of prayer as a component of emergency department (ED) interventions for risky alcohol use. A 12-question multiple-choice questionnaire was developed, piloted, and refined by the study team. The questionnaire included questions about current beliefs and attitudes toward prayer and assessed interest in various means of delivering prayer or prayer support for reducing alcohol use. The questionnaire was administered to a consecutive sample of 111 patients recruited from the 12-month follow-up of a parent RCT study on reducing alcohol use among injured ED patients (ReDIAL). To qualify for the parent study, participants needed an ASSIST v3.0 alcohol score ≥ 11. 90 participants (81%) consented to answer questions about prayer. The participating sample was 38% female and 29% nonwhite; mean age was 36 years. Of these participants, 64% reported that they currently pray; of those, 88% reported praying daily or weekly; 79% agreed that prayer helps with coping in difficult times; 68% agreed that prayer could assist in achieving difficult goals; and 48% agreed that prayer helps reduce alcohol use. Interest in various means of utilizing prayer to reduce alcohol use was assessed in all participants (regardless of whether they currently prayed or not): 45% were interested in having others pray for them to reduce alcohol use; 40% were interested in receiving text reminders to pray; 42% were interested in receiving text messages with specific prayers to use; and 47% were interested in receiving text messages that someone was praying for them. 33.3% of the entire sample stated that they would attend services if provided information on spiritual or religious groups in the community. The incorporation of prayer in alcohol interventions was considered acceptable by a proportion of our sample of risky alcohol users, even those who do not currently use prayer as a resource in their lives. Given the promising data on ED patients’ perceptions of the significance and acceptability of spiritual practices in reducing alcohol use, prayer may emerge as a useful adjunctive tool in future ED interventions for alcohol use disorders.


Emergency department Emergency medicine Substance use Prayer Alcohol Spirituality 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors of this manuscript declare that they have no conflicts of interest to report.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Obstetrics & GynecologyUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Injury Prevention Center, Department of Emergency MedicineRhode Island HospitalProvidenceUSA
  3. 3.Center for Policy & Research in Emergency Medicine, Department of Emergency MedicineOregon Health & Science UniversityPortlandUSA

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