Based on this review, we have identified several gaps in the current research literature on religion and substance use focused on low-income populations:
- Limited research on service needs and drug treatment seeking behaviors among residents in socially isolated rural areas.Religiosity may play a facilitative role in encouraging residents who are in need to seek treatment. This may be particularly helpful for ethnic and linguistic minority populations, who for cultural, economic and legal status issues may be socially isolated and not seek treatment when needed.
- A lack of qualitative or mixed-method (both qualitative and quantitative) studies.Using qualitative methodology permits for a more in-depth investigation of how religiosity may play a role in substance abuse prevention or treatment among low-income populations. This gap in research is highlighted in the work of Sanchez and colleagues (2008). They indicate that further studies are needed to understand the protective role of religiosity and whether religiosity acts by itself or indirectly through the influence of other factors.
- Limited number of longitudinal studies focused on low-income populations.Such studies are needed to determine when in the developmental process prevention and intervention programs should be implemented and/or which programs may lead to sustained behavior change.
- A lack of studies that focus specifically on low-income populations and the role of individual-level religiosity/spirituality. A first step includes analyzing the existing data sets and testing for income differences inthe effects of religiosity on various substance use outcomes for adults and adolescents.
- A lack of detail in research studies on how low-income is defined.
- A lack of program evaluations for low-income populations that assess the baseline levels of participants individual religiosity to examine how program components may impact outcomes, including changes in participants levels of individual religiosity.