With September being National Recovery Month, it proved to be the perfect time for Jewish Communities Confronting Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) to hold a symposium this past Sunday titled “Safeguarding Our Families: Confronting the Reality of Addiction in Our Community,” held at Ma’ayanot High School for Girls in Teaneck.
CCSA founder and executive director Lianne Forman explained that the basis for the symposium was “to tackle all aspects of addiction, to touch on other topics that have been affecting our families and that have been affecting our community with or without acknowledgement.
“From the very first event that we had back in April 2018, we went forward on the assumption that this would be a constant battlefront for us and we wanted to shatter the stigma around these issues. We wanted to talk about substance use and addiction but we wanted to bring to light other important topics.”
Since then, Forman has fielded hundreds of calls from people seeking help and resources, not just for substance abuse addictions, but also for a whole host of other behavioral addictions including, but not limited to, sex, pornography and gambling. “If you think there is shame and stigma associated with substance abuse addiction, it is even more so with an addiction like these, and it’s something that we can address,” and her aim, she said, is to shed light on these seemingly taboo topics.
Forman went on to explain that behavioral addictions like gambling and pornography, along with addictions to technology and social media, are becoming increasingly bigger issues within the community and because of that, the symposium made sure to tackle the origins of those types of addictions and ways to treat it. Often there is a link between trauma and addiction, and co-occurring disorders and mental health issues can often accompany these addictions as well. As such, it is of the utmost importance that families have a way to support a loved one who is suffering from an addiction.
“Our message has always been and always will be that this is a communal issue and deserves a communal response… this is a way of educating the community and helping everybody gather together as a community to address these issues.”
Eight lectures were presented, with topics ranging from the manifestations of trauma to managing a crisis in a family. There was even a lecture titled “Current Drug Trends: What Is Happening in Our Neighborhoods’’ presented by Sgt. Frank Gallucci, a New Jersey police officer who worked in the narcotics task force. He also spoke about the “One Pill Can Kill” campaign launched by the DEA to raise awareness about fake prescription drugs sold on the streets that contain deadly doses of fentanyl and methamphetamine.
Ike Dweck, CASAC, CPGC and the CEO and founder of The SAFE Foundation, a New York State OASAS licensed drug, alcohol and gambling outpatient clinic, gave an eye-opening talk on gambling disorders and discussed exactly how pervasive they are within the Jewish community. Together with his co-presenter, Vickie Davis Griffiths, they shared their personal experiences as well as examples from their work helping others overcome this disorder.
In addition to explaining how to recognize a gambling problem and what behaviors indicate a possible gambling disorder, Dweck also discussed the potential fallout from this particular addiction. Those can include the negative impact on families and relationships, and even suicide. He spoke about the rapid increase in those suffering from this addiction due to the ease of online gambling and how pervasive it is in the New York and New Jersey areas. Incidentally, New York and New Jersey are the states with the highest amount of sports betting by far in the nation (followed by Nevada).
Dr. Binyamin Tepfer, a certified sex addiction therapist who is also a supervisor for the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals, gave a lecture titled “Untangling the Web: Understanding and Treating Pornography Addiction.” He explained that as much as 3-7% of the population suffers from sex addiction, which leads to an intense spiral of shame. As with most other addictions, sexual addiction can lead to loss of life. Because of the intense shame and secrecy that accompanies this particular addiction, other addictions, notably substance abuse, tend to follow it, creating greater obstacles to recovery.
Addressing the dangers of technology addiction and social media, Dr. Akiva Goldschein discussed “Navigating Technology and Social Media: Understanding the Challenges and Protecting and Empowering Our Children.’’ Although many see it as simply a bad but relatively innocuous habit, he shared some disturbing trends and research on the adverse effects on both children and adults. One of those findings were from a study which found that three months after starting to use a smartphone, users experienced a significant decrease in mental arithmetic scores. Goldschein then offered some suggestions on how to prevent and minimize damage, including constructive ways to limit screen time, which can sometimes be the hardest step.
The program concluded with a Narcan (a device that delivers naloxone) training session hosted by Caroline Bailey, a certified peer recovery specialist and certified alcohol and drug counselor at Prevention Is Key/CARES. A recovering addict herself, Caroline expertly wove in her own struggles with addiction, as well as her mind-blowing experiences administering naloxone to others who suffered an opioid overdose. Bailey then handed out free Narcan kits to all who attended the session.
The number of emergency response calls for overdoses has gone up significantly in all communities and Narcan has proved to be a game changer in the number of lives it has saved.
“One of the things that CCSA is really focused on is saying this is happening to us (the community) … we are trying to say this is not an issue for outsiders. This is an issue in our community.”
Forman adds that CCSA regularly receives calls from people on all levels of the religious spectrum who are seeking help for their loved ones, be it their children, adult siblings, even spouses and parents.
“We want to rip the Band-Aid off and look this in the face. We need to understand that this is really impacting lives around us and we need to be responsive,” Forman said.
“We want to reach everybody. The message behind that is it may very well be impacting somebody you know and you just don’t know it … It is a community issue and if you’re a community member you have a responsibility to be educated.”
A special thank you was given to the sponsors, which included Amudim Community Resources, Arbor Intensives, Englewood Health, Genesis Treatment, Newport Healthcare, Project Extreme, Recovery at the Crossroads and The Safe Foundation.
For more information or to watch the lectures visit https://www.jewishccsa.org/