In Islam, there is a clear prohibition against the use of drugs and alcohol. The Qur’an, Islam’s central text, contains three verses that condemn the use of substances. In fact, the faith views intoxication as tantamount to outright sacrilege:

O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants (khamr), gambling, [sacrificing on] stone altars [to other than God], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful. —  Qur’an 5:90

Faith spelled in wooden blocksIn the Qur’an, intoxicants are referred to as “khamr,” the Arabic word for wine. The faith, however, extends that definition to include substances that defile the mind and intellect, lower inhibition or diminish one’s ability to think and feel rationally. It also views intoxicants as any substance that “overcomes” someone.

Simply put, no drugs of any kind are tolerated in the faith. Not even the kind that comes in foods like cooking sauces with white wine or chocolates containing alcohol. Much more so, when it pertains to alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, and heroin.

Still, virtually no corner of humanity or geography has been left untouched by the scourge of drug and alcohol abuse. People of every ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic stripe have slipped into the clutches of substance abuse and addiction.

Practitioners of Islam, especially those who reside in America and certain Muslim-majority nations, have not been immune. Many have been left to suffer in silence because substance abuse and addiction are taboo in many religious communities.

They have not been able to speak to, much less, find appropriate help for their addictions.

If this sounds like you or a loved one, read on to learn more about the state of addiction in Muslim-majority countries and communities and the available treatment options that take your faith into consideration.

Bottom line: Don’t let the stigma of addiction in your community prevent you from seeking treatment.

Reports of Drug Abuse in the Muslim Community

There is not a lot of information available about the incidence of alcohol and substance abuse in Muslim communities in the U.S. and abroad. There is, however, anecdotal evidence that depicts the rise of alcohol and opium abuse in Muslim communities throughout the globe.

In fact, there is evidence that points to a correlation between substance abuse and assimilation. In other words, for someone who identifies as Muslim, the more acculturated or immersed they are in Western culture, the higher the likelihood they will engage in substance abuse, particularly alcohol consumption.

A study published in the Journal of Muslim Mental Health also states that while Muslim majority countries have the lowest or near-lowest alcohol consumption rates per capita in the world, they also have a higher proportion of unreported alcohol consumption.

This same study also indicates that the Islamic countries of Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan “have a high prevalence of opiate use and injection drug use with an increasing prevalence of HIV infection….”

Other drugs that are used and produced in Muslim countries include marijuana, amphetamine-based stimulants, and other psychoactive substances. There are also reports that the plant-based stimulant khat is widely abused in Muslim countries as well. Authorities reportedly seized the plant in 51 countries with Muslim majorities.

Then there is the issue of opium abuse in Middle Eastern, Muslim-majority countries such as Afghanistan. According to a  2013 New York Times article, the country, which is nestled between Iran and Pakistan, has one of the world’s most addicted societies.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) announced that 8 percent of Afghanistan’s population — about 1 million people — suffers from drug addiction, which is twice the rate of the global average.

What Constitutes a Substance Abuse Disorder?

So what exactly constitutes a substance disorder?

This question is best answered by the criteria set forth in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The DSM-5 lists 10 or 11 features, depending on the substance, that describes “a problematic pattern of use of an intoxicating substance leading to clinically significant impairment or distress” occurring within 12 months.

If you meet two or three of the following criteria, then you would have a “mild” disorder. If you met four or five of them, that is considered “moderate.” If six or more of the criteria apply to you, then your disorder would rate as “severe.”

Those criteria are as follows:

  1. The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
  2. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful effort to cut down or control use of the substance.
  3. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance, use the substance, or recover from its effects.
  4. Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use the substance, occurs.
  5. Recurrent use of the substance results in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
  6. Use of the substance continues despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of its use.
  7. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of use of the substance.
  8. Use of the substance is recurrent in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
  9. Use of the substance is continued despite the knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance.
  10. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
  1. A need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect
  2. A markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance.
  1. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:
  2. The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for that substance (as specified in the DSM-5 for each substance).
  3. The use of a substance (or a closely related substance) to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

What Constitutes Addiction?


The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as “a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences.”

Addiction fundamentally changes how the brain functions. Those effects can last long after someone has stopped taking drugs.

Once someone has developed an addiction to a substance, they will begin to exhibit certain signs where the pursuit of that substance takes precedence over virtually any other thing in their life, including relationships, work, and even their own bodies.

Someone with addiction will begin to manifest particular behavioral or physical changes such as:

  • The person’s sleeping and eating patterns change.
  • They struggle to meet deadlines at work or complete schoolwork.
  • They show a lack of energy, consistent fatigue, weight loss or gain, and problems with motivation.
  • They neglect their hygiene or appearance.
  • They socialize less or have new friends they spend all their time with.
  • They experience financial problems due to job loss, instability, or spending all their money on drugs.

Professional Treatment Options

If it sounds like you or a loved one has a substance abuse disorder or addiction, then professional treatment is the best course of action you can take.

In a professional recovery program, a licensed and experienced staff will consult with you to design a specialized treatment plan to meet your specific needs. If you have an addiction to substances like alcohol, heroin, cocaine, or prescription opioids, it is best that you start with a medically supervised detox.

In detox, the addictive substance and other toxins are removed from the body and medications may be administered to treat the painful and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that may arise.

After you complete detox and your body and mind are stabilized, the next step is to receive ongoing care at a treatment facility. If you have a severe addiction, the most effective option is residential treatment. In this type of program, you will stay onsite at the treatment facility and receive a range of comprehensive care and services that take into account your specialized needs.

This includes treatment methods and approaches such as:

  • Detoxification
  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Individual therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Educational classes
  • Stress management
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Relapse prevention planning

For addictions that are not considered severe, there is outpatient treatment, which allows you the freedom and flexibility to live at home while receiving therapy and counseling, on a part-time basis, at a clinic or facility.

Once you complete treatment, you will be connected to aftercare programs designed to equip you with the life skills and coping strategies to necessary serve as a hedge against relapse.

Considerations for People of the Muslim Faith

For people of the Muslim faith, there are special considerations that are considered when they enroll in professional addiction treatment. The integration of the Islamic faith and addiction treatment practice is perhaps best embodied by Millati Islami, a 12-step recovery program for people of the Islamic faith.

The mission for this program is not unlike that of the common 12-step programs found in Western Societies: “We look to Allah (G-D) to guide us on Millati Islami (the Path of Peace). While recovering, we strive to become rightly guided Muslims, submitted our will and services to Allah.”

The 12-steps of Millati Islami are as follows:

12 Steps to Recovery

  1. We admitted that we were neglectful of our higher selves and that our lives have become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that Allah could and would restore us to sanity.
  3. We made a decision to submit our will to the will of Allah.
  4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. We admitted to Allah and to ourselves the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Asking Allah for right guidance, we became willing and open for change, ready to have Allah remove our defects of character.
  7. We humbly ask Allah to remove our shortcomings.
  8. We made a list of persons we have harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. We sought through Salaat (prayer service in Islam) and Iqraa (reading and studying) to improve our understanding of Taqwa (G-d consciousness) and Ihsan (excellence in faith).
  12. Having increased our level of Iman (faith) and Taqwa, as a result of applying these steps, we carried this message to humanity and began practicing these principles in all our affairs.
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