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Note to readers: This continuing series of op-ed and parenting columns addresses matters related to what is taking place in the Catskills. Should you have any parenting questions on these topics, or if you would like me to address a specific aspect of raising at-risk teens, please e-mail me at email@example.com.
You see a small plastic bottle of Visine or other brands of eye drops in the room of your teen son or daughter. He/she seems to have lingering colds and reddish eyes. You must have misplaced some cash in the house (several times, in fact) over the past few months. Your adolescent son or daughter begs off family simchahs, and his/her last report card was a disaster. Obviously, any one or two of these factors could be completely harmless. But in the aggregate, they are often signs of impending substance abuse issues. Parents of at-risk adolescents need to become more knowledgeable about these symptoms.
Your parents didn’t know any of this? You are offended at the notion that you need to think in these terms? Deal with it, as the kids would say. But become a knowledgeable and hands-on parent, as it is by far your best shot at guiding your at-risk child through this stormy phase in his/her life. Your involvement in your child’s life is perhaps the greatest predetermining factor as to your child riding out the storm and getting back on track to a productive future.
What are some of the symptoms of kids addicted to drugs? I asked Dr. Benzion Twerski, an outstanding mental health professional specializing in substance abuse treatment, to prepare a list of symptoms. Here are the symptoms he suggested parents should look for:
While other factors can cause many of these symptoms, these are behaviors and activities typical of individuals who are substance abusers:
• Sudden changes in mood, attitudes, or vocabulary – impulsive behavior.
• 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.
• Denial of having a drug problem.
• Heightened secrecy about actions and possessions.
• Association with a new group of friends, especially with those who use drugs or exhibit similar lifestyles.
• Having 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.
• Neglecting personal health, and unexplained medical symptoms – such as weight loss and pallor.
• Sudden and continuing change in appearance and manner of dress, especially when contrasting to family patterns.
• Experiencing trouble in the handling of responsibilities.
So what now?
If you are starting to connect the dots, and feel that you may have signs of potential substance abuse with your teenager, it is important for you to proceed slowly and with much reflection. Please don’t overreact or impulsively attempt to “get your child back on track.” The circumstances that created this situation did not occur overnight, nor will they magically disappear. Seek professional guidance as to the steps you should take, and the pace in which you should take them.
I strongly believe that any teenager who is addicted to drugs is a choleh sheyesh bosakanah (one who has a potentially life-threatening illness). A child like this needs a professional drug rehabilitation center, not a yeshiva. You would not consider removing a stage-four cancer patient (G-d forbid) from a hospital in order to send him to a yeshiva. To quote Dr. Twerski, “Alcohol and drug abuse is a disease. It is a fatal illness that begins with casual or experimental use of a chemical for its mind-altering effects. It rapidly becomes an addiction, which involves loss of control over the substance or behavior, and eventually leads to self-destructiveness.”
It is important to understand that drug use also follows a continuum, from experimentation to regular use to dependency and addiction. Not everyone who smokes marijuana is a hard-core addict. But if your child is addicted to drugs, please seek professional help immediately. And seek the help of people who are trained specifically in the field of substance abuse addiction. A rabbi has a crucial and significant role in assisting an addicted child or adult. He can offer moral support, spiritual guidance, and answer any halachic questions that will inevitably arise as a result of the treatment of the addiction. Rabbis (this writer included), however, and yeshivas are not professionally equipped to deal with or heal people who are addicts. If you are not sure if your child falls into the category of a hard-core user, please go to a trained professional for his or her advice.
The YATZKAN Center, founded by Debbie Jonas, recently relocated to Brooklyn, NY under the auspices of FEGS. They offer inpatient and outpatient treatment for addicted teens – with a fully kosher program. Their clinical director, Lew Abrams, LCSW, CASAC, is highly trained in the arena of treating drug addiction. I am familiar with their work, and highly recommend their services for teens and adults who have addiction problems.
At the risk of sounding melodramatic, if your child is addicted to drugs, this is a life-or-death matter. Too many of our precious children have died of drug overdoses for you to worry about what the neighbors will think or just hope things will improve. If you even suspect that your child has a substance abuse problem, please contact YATZKAN immediately and find out what you can do to save his/her life – before it’s too late!
About the Author: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam and founder and director of Agudath Israel's Project Y.E.S.
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For many, contemplating our exile from our homeland is more of an intellectual endeavor than an emotional one.
I encourage all singles and their parents to urge their shadchanim to participate in ShadchanZone.
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Participants wore blue and white, waved Israeli flags, and carried pro-Israel posters.
To support the Victor Center for Prevention of Jewish Genetic Diseases at Miami Children’s, please call 305-666-2889 or visit www.mchf.org/donate and select the “Victor Center” fund.
The course will be taught once a month for seven consecutive months and is designed for women at all levels of Jewish knowledge.
Like many of his contemporaries, he went through some hard years, but eventually he earned the rewards of his perseverance and integrity.
The president’s message was one of living peacefully in a Jewish and democratic state, Jews of all stripes unified as brothers, with Arabs or citizens of other religions.
What Hashem desires most is that we learn to connect with each other as children in the same family.
You are my brothers and sisters. Your pain is my pain.
Those of us familiar with the do’s and don’ts of accepted practice in the mental health profession saw similar blaring warning lights in our minds, as should have occurred when the facts were made public regarding the accusations against Nehemia Weberman. This case may very well be our community’s most important abuse trial during our lifetimes. It is imperative that we have a huge turnout in support of the victim, a courageous young lady who, may she be gezunt andge’bentched, is determined to see this through to the end so others won’t suffer like she did.
These lines are written in loving memory of our dear father, Reb Shlomo Zev ben Reb Baruch Yehudah Nutovic, a”h, whose first yahrzeit is 7 Menachem Av. May the positive lessons learned from this essay be a zechus for his neshamah.
All responsible leaders in our community have roundly condemned the recent violence in Beit Shemesh and Meah Shearim.
A surefire way to gauge the generation in which a person was raised is to have him or her fill in the following sentence: Where were you when ?”
Baby Boomers would ask, “When President Kennedy was shot?” Thirtysomethings would respond, “When the space shuttle exploded?” Today’s teenagers would reply, “On 9/11?”
One week ago on my website I announced my intention to attend the next court appearance of a man who was arrested last year and is now standing trial on 10 felony charges of child abuse.
Dear Rabbi Horowitz:
We were taken aback when our 18-year-old son just called us from Eretz Yisrael (we live in Europe) and told us that he was coming home and wants to immediately go to work. He said that he is wasting his time in yeshiva, and just can’t take it anymore. He said that he will “run away from home” if we don’t allow him to go to work.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/parenting-matters/2007/08/22/
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