Op-Ed By YWN: Drug (Opioid) Crisis Spiraling Out Of Control In Frum Communities – What Are We Doing About It?

President Trump took a bold move on Thursday by declaring the opioid crisis a nationwide public health emergency, and announcing new steps to combat what he described as the worst drug crisis in U.S. history.

“We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic”, Trump said.

While President Trump should be commended for his actions today, it’s sad that many people in our communities have yet to awaken and grasp the magnitude of how this crisis is affecting our community.

The fact is, speak to any therapist, and you will very quickly learn that the drug crisis in the Frum is exploding. Many people think their families will never be affected, and many others feel that this topic should remain quiet and be dealt with privately. Unfortunately, the “remaining quiet” and “dealing with it quietly” tactics were tried already the way molestation was dealt with in the past 50 years. We all know where that ended up….

Thankfully, molestation is a topic that has been brought to the forefront and children are being educated to be aware of predators. People have been reporting pedophiles to the police, and abusers have been locked away. Large forums have been held in the most insular communities such as Lakewood, where parents have been given an education about pedophilia.

But now it’s time for us to grab the bull by the horns regarding the drug crisis. There is no reason why more lives need to be lost.

At a recent Kiddush in a very prominent Shul led by a very prominent Rov, there was a table where the men were eating “edibles”. This is not a fantasy or made up story. This happened in the past few weeks. Do you even know what “edibles” are? Do you know that boys can be smoking an E-Cig with “wax” (synthetic marijuana), and there will be virtually no smell? So basically, your child can be smoking what you think is an E-Cig – but meanwhile be taking drugs in your own home?

Hopefully the following points will be read by all of you, and taken to heart.

* Close to 90 Frum people have died from overdoses since January 2017. This is an indisputable but horrific fact. (One Rov who seems to be in denial about this crisis asked me recently “have you seen the death certificates?” after I informed him of the spiraling number of opioid deaths.)

* Many of the overdoses are not teens as most people think they are. The victims are grown men and women – many with wonderful jobs and families. That is a misconception that people make. The drug problem is not “teens” or “kids at risk”. The drug crisis is affecting people of all ages, and it doesn’t discriminate. From Chabad to Satmar, from Lakewood to Los Angeles, from Chicago to Deal. It is a real serious problem, and it’s getting worse.

* Hatzolah and other EMS agencies around the United States have used Narcan hundreds upon hundreds of times since last January in Frum communities – and as many as TEN TIMES THIS WEEK ALONE, saving the lives of hundreds of potential drug overdose deaths.

There are thousands of Frum people in “recovery”; who are constantly going to meetings and working hard on themselves to stay sober. This may sound shocking, but can you believe that men on Yom Kippur attended meetings for addiction while wearing their “Kitals”? If you are struggling with addiction – please seek help.

Amudim has been at the forefront working on educating the public. Some people are very receptive, while others continue to remain silent, and ignore this crisis. Many educational events were held the past few years. At one recent event held in Ateres Chynka in Flatbush, every single Rov in Flatbush was invited and asked to attend. Only ONE Rov attended besides the prominent Rosh Yeshiva who spoke at the event. That speaks volumes as to how much in denial our community is in. For example in Monsey, some major organizations continue to refuse to publicly acknowledge the magnitude of the problem, even working to prevent forums from being held where people can be educated. This is despite the fact that 14 lives were lost in the past year alone.

Think about this for a minute. Many organizations (rightfully) publish an incredible amount of literature before each Purim warning of the dangers of excessive drinking on Purim. How many people died the past 30 years from drinking or drinking related deaths on Purim? Under 10. That number is terrible – as every life is precious. But compare that to NINETY DEATHS THIS PAST YEAR ALONE AND HUNDREDS MORE SAVED FROM OVERDOSES! Why are these organizations remaining silent! This is Pikuach Nefashos!

When will we finally awaken and be as bold as President Trump and declare and admit that we have an opioid crisis like we never have seen before?

There are way too many people still in denial, and way too many lives being destroyed and even worse – lost R”L.

YWN Editorial Board.

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