Thursday, March 03, 2005

Youth and Drug Abuse

As a result of Gonen Segev's admission of drug smuggling I started to think about the whole subject of youth and drug abuse. How have things changed in the last 25-30 years since I was a teenager?

I remember that in my time anybody with half a brain had enough examples to know that they should avoid heavy drugs. We all knew about the famous rock stars that had died from drug abuse. In the neighborhood that I grew up in (in suburban New Jersey) there was a youth that got heavily involved with drugs. He then traveled to San Francisco to be with all of the flower children, promptly overdosed and kicked the bucket. So I as a youth had plenty of reasons not to even consider heavy drugs.

Alcohol and marijuana were another matter. I don't think I know of anyone in my generation who didn't try these things at least once. This was part of growing up. Since I grew up in a good family in a good neighborhood, I never really felt a great need to change my state of consciousness. I was happy with my life, and any substance abuse was a social thing or a matter of curiosity.

In college I discovered another disadvantage to drinking. If you got drunk at night, the day afterwards was also lost in a hangover. I had come to college with every intention of succeeding and getting a degree, and I knew that excessive partying would prevent this. Unfortunately, there were some nights when I drank too much and found myself vomiting in the toilet. We used to call this "praying to the porcelain goddess."

Not everyone felt like me about this matter. I knew a guy whose motto was “"The three D's: The Doors, The Dead, and Jack Daniels." It didn't take this guy too long to fail out. Others partied almost continuously and when exam time came around they took "uppers" to help them stay up all night to study. I don't think these guys left the campus with diplomas in their hands either.

Towards the end of college I "discovered" Orthodox Judaism. Judaism teaches us that we must care for our body and not abuse it. There is however one day a year, Purim, where there is actually an obligation to drink more than usual. But this is an exception to the rule. Life is simply much too precious to be spent in a stupor.

The 1990s brought us some nice things, email and cellular telephones for example. The 1990s also brought us ecstasy pills. A new drug for a new generation.

Recently I was at a wedding where my wife and I met a youth that grew up in our Jerusalem neighborhood. He had fallen into the nasty world of drug abuse. Now he was trying to rectify himself and come clean. We sat at the same table. At the end of the meal we recited Birkat HaMazon (grace). I could see that he was having trouble with this task, something that even first graders can do. I don't know what drugs he had taken, but they apparently left a lasting if not permanent damage.

What a heartache for his parents! You bring a child into the world, you rear him, you nurture him, you give him your love and you give him your soul! Then you see him whither before your eyes! I thought of the family from my neighborhood in New Jersey whose soon overdosed. What grief, what sorrow! As a child I could not understand the magnitude of this tragedy for his parents.

Who is to blame? I point the finger at certain musicians and entertainers for making substance abuse "in." Of course, let us not forget the smugglers and the pushers who are willing to destroy the lives of our youth and to make entire families miserable in order to line their pockets with money.

Nobody is immune to this plague. I have heard that drugs have even found their way into some of the yeshivot.

How do we stop this pestilence? Besides prayer, I don't know what we can do. Does anybody out there have any suggestions?

If you are a youth that happened to surf in here, please take to heart what I have written. Drugs are not "cool", and they are not a way to solve problems. They only make problems worse. Don't give your money to the drug dealers and don't ruin your mind. Your whole life is still ahead of you!

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