The Pesach dishes, pots, pans and other supplies are packed away. Pantries are restocked withchometz food and lives and schedules are returning to normal. However, there are families in the community for whom life will never be normal again. Why? They have sat shiva for precious children who passed away tragically.
Although I have not known all the niftarim, I cannot make peace with these unfathomable tragedies. The existential pain that these people lived with is beyond comprehension and I will not even dare to gauge what their poor parents, siblings and other family members must be experiencing. However, this has not absolved me from trying to find a solution to helping others who are enveloped in this web of confusion that leads to nowhere good – Nor should any of us believe that we are separate, immune and not vulnerable to the agony that is crying for intervention.
We live in a world today where there’s a surge of physical, emotional and spiritual pain, the proportions of which mimic an epidemic. Adolescents and young adults from all walks of life, including religious and nonreligious, all socioeconomic groups and event from the most stable of homes are becoming prey to the cheap and commonplace availability of illicit drugs. It may start with e-cigarettes and marijuana and then progresses to opiates and heroin. By the way, heroin is no longer the recreation drug reserved for the wealthy: Heroin is the scourge of society as it’s cheap and readily available for purchase in our own neighborhoods. And heroin’s insidiousness is exacerbated because needles are no longer needed.
Drug abuse happens 24/7, including on Shabbes. Shabbes is a day of frustration, boredom and mental agitation for many disillusioned young people and married couples. Hence, drugs and alcohol become the means to survive.
In February, I addressed an asifa called by Achiezer of over 40 community Rabbonim about this issue. I reported that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had announced in January that since 2000, the deaths due to drug overdosing/poisoning has increased by 137%, including a 200% increase in the rates of death involving opiod pain relievers and heroin. TheRabbonim cared. However, we have been unable move the concern and good intentions to positive action: Why? Because most people have the attitude, “Not in my backyard, not in my school, not in my shul, not in my home.”
Take the time to sit with adolescents and young adults and hear some of their vocabulary. “Baby sit” means to guide someone through their first drug experience. “Baker” – a person who smokes marijuana. “Bed bugs” – fellow addicts. “Special K” is no longer a cereal: It’s illegally procured ketamine (used to induce anesthesia) which is boiled into crystals and then crushed and sniffed. Find out on your own what Spice and Brownies are. For your information, they’re not such innocuous foods. And these slang terms are but the tip of the user’s lexicon.I applaud the local schools that have mandatory drug testing. In fact, my son will be enrolling in such a high school this September, please G-d. Mandatory drug testing means that the school’shanhala is in touch with the generation and refuses to bury its head in the sand, mired in denial. As one Rosh Yeshiva of a school that mandates drug testing said, “We don’t abandon a student if he tests positive. There’s no one algorithm that works other than a commitment to nurture each neshoma as needed.”
At a Bris last week, a community Rav who had been at the February asifa approached me, saying that although his community is still on the young side of life, he and his Rebbitzen have begun scanning the horizon, planning what they will do to head off this problem before it rears its ugly head in their community. My wife and I are in awe by these visionaries who have the foresight to invest now in order to reap future dividends.
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