The protective role of spiritual wellness in students’ long-term drug recovery: A case study of drug users and ex-users

Tak man LEUNG

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses


Reviews indicated that the predominant approaches on drug treatment and recovery were mostly based on a pathological perspective, which only focus on short-term drug abstinence and neglect the well-being of the drug-users. Recently, a shift of conception of drug recovery from this traditional pathological approach to a positive psychological approach emphasizes both persistent drug abstinence and well-being of the drug-users. This shift has initiated plenty of studies to explore the protective factors promoting this kind of long-term drug recovery.

Among different protective factors, spirituality is supported by literature that it can protect drug-takers from drug relapse and bring them well-being as well. In this research, this protective role of spirituality is theoretically linked with the spiritual transformation through the search of purpose of life / meaning of life of the drug-taker towards spiritual well-being by which the drug-taker also activates self-reflection and self-forgivingness about his/her drug-taking behavior. These two processes concerning self would lead the drug-users to give up their drug-taking behavior. In addition, the sustainability of the drug abstinence and spiritual wellness is subject to the support of the spiritual resiliency of the drug-taker and the complementary maturation in cognitive, moral, and psychosocial developments of the drug-taker.

By following this theoretical framework, the objectives of this study were: (1) To explore how spiritual meaningfulness can facilitate drug abstinence and spiritual well-being; (2) To examine how spiritual resiliency works with self-efficacy of the drug-takers to achieve spiritual well-being in drug recovery; and (3) To examine the relationship between the spiritual development towards spiritual wellness, and the cognitive, moral, and psychosocial developments in long-term drug recovery.

The findings of this study can provide theoretical direction for further investigation about how to help the drug-taking students achieve persistent drug abstinence and positive life-development. This study also enhances the understanding of the relationship among the spiritual, cognitive, and moral development in achieving long-term drug recovery, which has not been well discussed in literature.

Regarding the methodology of this research, a qualitative research design was adopted. A sample of 14 participants including 10 ex-drug-users and 4 drug-users were recruited in the study by snowball sampling method. The data was collected by in-depth interviews, which were semi-structured in format and focused on the relationship among the theoretical constructs of drug experience, spiritual experience, and cognitive, moral, and psychosocial development of the participants within their life-development history.

The main findings of this research include the following: (1) The pursuit of spiritual meaningfulness is positively associated with the achievement of persistent drug abstinence and positive long-term drug recovery; (2) Continuous fulfillment in the pursuit of spiritual meaningfulness and social support are crucial for one’s resilience in drug abstinence and long-term drug recovery; and (3) A complementary maturation in cognitive, moral, and psychosocial development is positively associated with the actualization of spiritual wellness towards drug recovery.

Besides the above theoretical implications of the protective role of spirituality in long-term drug recovery, the findings practically revealed a dual role of social support in spiritual resiliency for sustaining a persistent spiritual transcendence along the drug recovery process. The presence of social support would have a protective function on the spiritual resiliency. However, lacking social support would have a negative effect on spiritual resiliency. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Education
Awarding Institution
  • The Education University of Hong Kong
  • LAM, Chi Ming 林志明, Supervisor
  • WU, Siu Wai 胡少偉, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ed.D.)--The Education University of Hong Kong, 2023.


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