Opinion: Countering Drug Use – and Denial – in the Jewish Community

(Phot by ep_jhu, Creative Commons license)

“It’s time that we stopped denying that this crisis has come to us and start thinking of ways to address it,” writes Bethany Mandel in an opinion piece in The Forward about what she calls the “Jewish opioid epidemic.”

The evidence, she says, comes in the shocking statistics emerging from Orthodox communities about deaths from drug overdoses. But, she says, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. A number of community organizations, including Operation Survival and Amudim, work with people to counter addiction.

Rabbi Zvi Gluck is the director of an organization called Amudim that helps young people who get involved with drugs. Gluck told me that these numbers don’t even include older Jews, whose families are withholding the cause of their relative’s death from the wider community.

“We did not see this 10 years ago,” Gluck told me. “We’re seeing a huge increase of people reaching out for help, even though there is a stigma.”

More evidence, says Mandel, can be found in the fact that Narcan kits, which are used to counteract overdoses, are increasingly being made available within the community.

The strongest evidence for a Jewish opioid epidemic comes in the guise of Hatzolah ambulances now carrying Narcan, a medication that treats narcotic overdoses. And it’s not only Hatzolah ambulances — Narcan is distributed to faith leaders, and to family and friends of those addicted, not to mention to the addicts themselves.

As part of the New York City and State Opioid Overdose Awareness Program, Amudim has held events across the area, including one in Brooklyn attended by over 800 people. Present at these events are therapists discussing the clinical aspects of addiction, rabbis tackling the spiritual angle, and a representative from the medical community instructing attendees how to administer CPR and Narcan. Those present are offered a kit.

In a follow-up piece the next day, Mandel said that the response to her article had been “overwhelming,” and she quoted from numerous stories that people related to her.


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  1. Pingback: – Opioid Addiction in the Greek Community

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