The Magazine of The Orthodox Union
and Substance Abuse: Shattering the Myths
By Dr. Benzion Twerski
Signs of Drug Abuse
While other factors can cause many of these symptoms, alert
parents and educators should be aware that these signs are typical of substance abusers
and they should investigate the situation.
** Sudden changes in mood, attitudes, or vocabulary. Impulsive
** Sudden and continuing decline in attendance or performance at work or in school.
** Sudden and continuing resistance to discipline at home or in school.
** Impaired relationships with family members or friends.
** Unusual flares of temper.
** Increased amount and frequency of borrowing money from family and friends.
**Stealing from the home, at school, or in the workplace.
** Denies having a drug problem.
** Heightened secrecy about actions and possessions.
** Associating with a new group of friends, especially with those who use drugs or exhibit
** Has physical symptoms of drug abuse, such as red eyes, dilated pupils, constricted
pupils, sleepiness, chronic runny nose, scars or needle marks.
** Keeping long hours away from home, especially at night and on weekends.
** Neglectful of personal health and unexplained medical symptoms such as weight loss and
** Sudden and continuing change in appearance and manner of dress, especially when
contrasting to family patterns.
** Trouble handling responsibilities.
for coping with the problems of the addict and his/her family
We Can Still Save the Future --
If We Dare
To summarize, I urge that several goals be relentlessly pursued by us as individuals and
as a community:
Begin to discuss the problems of addiction openly; in your community, your family and your
schools. We have tried to avoid the problem, and in doing so, we have failed our children.
Be alert for signs of alcohol/drug experimentation and use (see
sidebar). Refrain from denial, e.g., believing that "it cannot happen in my
kehillah" (shul, yeshivah, family). It is a contagious disease and contaminates
without respect for the kehillah, shul, yeshivah or family.
Address addiction as a disease, which requires treatment. Do not take it as rebellion or
bad behavior, with the focus on punishments.
There are resources available to cope with the problems of the addict and his/her family.
(See listings). These should all be utilized, even if you think
there only may be a problem.
I often ask an addict seeking therapy a simple question: Would you
be willing to report the names of the dealers who sold you drugs to the law enforcement
authorities? The addict's answer may well reflect his or her true level of motivation to
Likewise, the readiness of a community to pursue those who would destroy it is a
reflection of its level of caring about every precious soul in that community.
Allowing drug activity to continue is tantamount to supporting it. If you or someone you
know is aware of the names of dealers, report them to the police or the local office of
the Drug Enforcement Agency. Our community deserves protection -- and we are the only ones
who can provide it.
Dr. Benzion Twerski is
the staff psychologist at Substance Abuse Services at Elizabeth General Medical Center in
Elizabeth, New Jersey. He is on the professional advisory boards of JAADD (Jewish
Association for Attention Deficit Disorder) and JACS (Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically
dependent persons, and Significant others). He has written and published in a wide variety
of lay and professional periodicals, and lectures on addictive disorders in the Jewish
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