the greatest social plague which presently afflicts our society is the
massive plague of drug and alcohol abuse. Our present society has
tended to look upon this abuse as a medical problem for the individuals
involved, and has all but ignored the possibility that this abuse is a
social phenomena which is subject to group action. However, there have
been studies which show that individuals raised in the Jewish tradition
are far less subject to falling victim to drug and alcohol abuse than
are members of the population at large. This clearly shows that
something in the way children are raised can be used to inoculate them
against the plague of this abuse, at least in part.6
That "something" is a combination of several factors which are more common in the Jewish community than they are in the population at large. The most obvious point is that Jewish people are more likely to be involved in some sort of larger community group, such as their Temple, if nothing else. Jewish people are more likely to have regular friendships primarily with people of their own faith, and to have daily involvement with other families who keep the same traditions as they do.
Drug and alcohol abuse is, in essence, a withdrawal from society for the purpose of achieving a private pleasure through use of some chemical substance.7 The most serious kinds of drug abuse, such as injecting heroin, are totally private affairs; if anyone else is present, they are either purely spectators or are involved with their own addiction. Most true addicts prefer absolute privacy, if for no other reason, because they know that they are "in trouble" if they get caught, and there are few people, if any, that they would trust with the knowledge that they are committed drug addicts. Substances which people perceive as less serious, such as alcohol and marijuana, are more likely to be used in small groups and to be viewed as a "social lubricant," which is a virtual necessity for any really successful party.8 This leads to the great trap: intoxicants are perceived as a requirement for relaxation and a slight loss of inhibitions, both of which are considered to be both necessary and desirable for enjoying a party; meanwhile, greater use of those very same substances leads to the exact opposite effect of social withdrawal and to such a total loss of inhibitions that the individual is vulnerable to many things which they would never do.
Thus, there is a fine line between low to moderate use of alcohol as the "lubricant" for greater and more pleasant social interaction and increased use which leads to the undesirable consequences of social withdrawal and increased physical danger. The key, then, is to train our children to always stay on the socially acceptable side of that very fine line. The question, then, is exactly how do we accomplish this training?
The answer is many fold, but the three main points are: 1) you must train children to naturally gravitate towards socializing in groups as opposed to desiring withdrawal from those same groups; 2) you must train children to use socially acceptable intoxicants, principally alcohol, in moderation; and 3) you must provide a safety net to identify and correct the behavior of those who stray off of the desired path.
Once you look at the points enumerated above, you should see the pattern which leads children raised in the Jewish tradition to be less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Jewish children are more likely to gravitate towards other Jewish children and their families; this is an almost natural consequence of the fact that Jews have traditionally seen themselves as a community apart from the rest of humanity. And Jewish children are virtually certain to be raised with at least some training as to the use of alcohol in moderation since there is at least one religious festival, Purim, at which the participants are expected to get a bit tipsy and otherwise enjoy themselves.
The principal problem with the Christian solution is that it is based on the exact same concepts which led to Prohibition in the United States. It did not take many years for our society to acknowledge that Prohibition was not the answer. However, we are now engaged in a virtually identical attempt to suppress "hard" drugs by making them illegal and by interdicting their transport into this country. Again, this clearly is not the answer, although I would never go so far as to assert that such drugs ought to be freely available on every street corner. Availability by prescription would be my choice.
Most drug addicts would do virtually anything to get a reliable supply of drugs which are of a known purity level. Allowing addicts to purchase drugs in this fashion, as Great Britain has allowed,9 would at least control the problem of illicit distribution and would also reduce the quantity of crime which must be perpetrated for addicts to be able to afford their daily ration of drugs. In the absence of a successful "cure," which does not yet exist, this seems the only rational answer to handling those who are already addicted.
As for those not yet addicted, we must devise the training for our children which will result in their lacking any real desire to use "hard" drugs and in their having all of the training necessary to recognize when they are using too much alcohol so that they will know when to moderate their use.
Aversion therapy is one thing which ought to be tried for children of a certain age. From my own personal experiences, I learned to use alcohol in moderation only by my pushing the limits on several occasions, and then being forced to deal with the very real consequences of my acts. I was very lucky: in my earliest drinking binge, I was in the Navy, and my buddies took care of me; in a later binge, I managed to maneuver my car all the way home safely, even though I should never have been driving in the first place; and each time I had a "binge-type" experience, I resolved never to get "that drunk" again, and never did. Gradually, over a long period of time and a lot of drinking experiences, I learned to moderate my drinking to achieve the desired pleasure and avoid the associated "pain" of being hung-over the next morning, or having to deal with drunk driving arrests, etc. And I believe my own experience is fairly typical of what most young adults go through before they learn to be moderate drinkers. The difficulty is that we expect our young adults to train themselves virtually by accident. There is absolutely no formalized training on "how to drink and not get drunk." And yet, such training would be vital to our social health in the absence of reinstating the absolute prohibition of alcohol use, which our society has already tried and rejected, and which seems undesirable for many other reasons as well.
So, to return to the three main points enumerated above, the first point is addressed by the overall socialization into a sense of community which is probably the principal goal of my suggestions in this book; the second point would be addressed by starting young children, at say age thirteen, with controlled alcohol use and controlled aversion therapy; and the third point of providing a safety net would be a natural consequence of starting the use of alcohol at an earlier age because the first element of the safety net is the family and the second would be the controlled aversion therapy, conducted by people who are professional therapists. Thus, I believe that: if you take young teenagers and train them to avoid the use of large quantities of alcohol; if you identify at that early age and in controlled circumstances those who cannot be trained to use alcohol in moderation; and if you mentally associate the use of "hard" drugs with the use of massive quantities of alcohol, which is what you have trained these young people to avoid; the net result of all of this will be to train our young people to be responsible drinkers at an early age.
One final thought: drinking may well need to be licensed, just as we license people to drive cars. This would provide a method for society to at least try to regulate those individuals who, for whatever reason, are going to abuse alcohol and/or drugs. Doctors and courts could then regulate the use of alcohol and drugs by those uncontrollable individuals, hopefully eliminating as many of the adverse effects to other individuals as is possible.
not all crime is related to gangs or drugs, there is a strong
relationship. It is thus to be expected that reducing gangs and drug
abuse will naturally result in a reduction of crime, while so long as
gangs and drugs are allowed to proliferate, crime will increase.
6 And in fact the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program is an attempt at this. But it cannot succeed without reinforcement in the home living environment. In other words, a part time program in the schools simply cannot be expected to be a panacea for a general social ill.
7 In the 1960s, the Dow Chemical company had a slogan: "Better living through chemistry." After the drug culture adopted their slogan, Dow dropped it. The drug rehabilitation people then tried an altered version as part of their programs: "Bitter living through chemistry."
8 Also, there are many stories about cocaine being used in this way for parties of the really rich.
9 The program in Great Britain has taken several rocky turns, first broadly advertised, then all but eliminated, and finally, quietly resurected. It is not without controversy, but the controversy basically arises from our own false feelings that addicts are somehow "responsible for" their own addiction. Once we abandon the idea of personal "fault," we can develop an attitude of tolerance for addiction as a medical condition which requires treatment. Thus, we should make available prescription drugs to addicts who are, for any reason whatsoever, afflicted with the disease of drug addiction.
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