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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 5/09/08

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Dear Rachel,

I have been trying to figure out a way to deal with something I witnessed on Purim and am hoping your feedback, as well as readers’ input, might make an impression on our community.

While at a family oriented Purim party, I saw some kids walk outside to the backyard without their coats so I went to bring them in. That was when I noticed frum men, with their children around, lighting up a pipe with marijuana.

I understand that people think Purim is a time to let loose. However, the mitzvah of getting high is being taken to new heights. There is a mitzvah to drink wine − not to get high on drugs. Taking drugs is illegal and dangerous. Yes, even “pot.” It increases the heartbeat, as well as increases the chance of a heart attack in the hour after it enters your system, by 4½ times.

It is potent and can be traced in the blood for weeks after. On top of actually doing drugs, which is bad enough, these men did it in front of their children. How irresponsible can a person be?!

They probably think it is not my business to say anything and that I should turn a blind eye. But how can I? Children are being taken care of by men who are stoned. Their cognitive abilities are impaired, their reaction times slowed, and their responses disoriented. How am I supposed to sit there and just let children be endangered?

A (sober) unsettled observer

Dear Unsettled,

You raise a topic that has been swept under the rug in our communities, for it is a difficult one to deal with by a people taught through the generations to tread a dignified path. Whether we are up to facing it is irrelevant; we must do what we can to get through to the reckless adults who would risk so much for a fleeting escape into la-la land.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, marijuana affects memory, judgment and perception and wreaks worse havoc on one’s respiratory health than smoking cigarettes. The amount of tar, carbon monoxide, and cancer-causing chemicals inhaled in marijuana smoke is almost five times greater than that of tobacco smoke.

If this is not enough set the pot smoker straight, s/he may want to digest the fact that inhaling the weed on a weekly basis doubles one’s risk of depression later in life. Moreover, research has shown that marijuana use dramatically increases the chance of mental disease such as anxiety and schizophrenia.

Teenagers who think that getting high is “cool” might want to pay attention to this: Marijuana reduces learning ability by limiting the capacity to absorb and retain information. Memory retention, as well as math and verbal skills are seriously tampered with.

But that’s not all. Chest colds, bronchitis, emphysema, and bronchial asthma are more apt to strike the chronic marijuana user who will end up with damaged lungs and airways and a higher risk for cancer.

Furthermore, regular use of marijuana delays the onset of puberty in young men and can cause sperm reduction. A woman’s monthly cycle can be disrupted and ovulation suppressed. Pregnant women risk having smaller babies who are more likely to develop health problems and developmental setbacks.

The dangers of ingesting marijuana in a nutshell (Courtesy of the American Council for Drug Education): Impaired perception; diminished short-term memory; loss of concentration and coordination; impaired judgment; increased risk of accidents; loss of motivation; diminished inhibitions; increased heart rate; anxiety, panic attacks, and paranoia; hallucinations; damage to the respiratory, reproductive, and immune systems; increased risk of cancer; and psychological dependency.

To your question, “How am I supposed to sit there and just let children be endangered?” – if these were people you were personally acquainted with, you could perhaps have engaged them in conversation (under more congenial circumstances in a more appropriate setting) to let them know of your genuine concern for them and their children’s well-being, while at the same time enlightening them to particulars that they may be oblivious to.

Unfortunately, some lessons in life are learned the hard way. Hopefully, your letter will have some impact and awaken potheads to the chilling real life scenarios that await them if they persist in hiding behind their smokescreens. Thank you for helping to raise our awareness.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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