At Sunday evening’s Amudim drug abuse and overdose awareness program at the Young Israel of West Hempstead, Rebecca Glassman spoke in intensely personal terms about her son, Aryeh Natan, who died from a heroin overdose ten months ago.
“Many in the Orthodox community don’t believe it can happen to them,” she said. “Sadly, my family is an example of the fact that it can. In the last year, within the Orthodox community far too many have been lost to drug overdoses.”
Glassman said that “the number one question that people asked was ‘how do we stop this?’ We can’t pull all the drug dealers off the street, so we must educate our kids, everybody, about the dangers of drug use, to prevent it.”
“How did my son, the product of an Orthodox family, educated in a yeshiva environment, become an addict?” Glassman continued. “Doesn’t drug abuse only exist in the outside world, far from our religious bubble? Well, we now know that drug and alcohol abuse is rampant in yeshivah settings as well.
“Addiction is in fact a deadly disease. My Ari suffered from the disease of addiction.”
Sunday’s meeting was the second time that Glassman spoke before a group on this frightening topic. She said her goal is to prevent what happened to her son from happening to others.
“Education and programming in the schools for students, teachers, administrators and parents is a necessary start,” she said. “But addiction happens at every age. Many adults have become addicted to the pain medication they were prescribed after injuries. Addiction can affect anyone.”
Glassman quoted from an anonymous poem that she said was “either a cry for help from an addict, or a message from someone who overcame it.”
I destroy homes, tear families apart, take your children, and that’s just the start.
When I possess you, you’ll steal and you’ll lie.
You’ll do what you have to, just to get high.
The sweats, the shakes, the visions you’ll see.
I want you to know, these are all gifts from me.
I can bring you more misery than words can tell.
Come take my hand, let me lead you to hell.
“In 2016, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy wrote a report on alcohol, drugs and health, the first of its kind, which said ‘addiction is a chronic brain disease that has the potential for both relapse and recovery’,” Glassman related.
Rabbi Zvi Gluck, founder of Amudim, and clinical psychologist Dr. Yaakov Siegel presented information at Sunday’s meeting.
“The three of us said some of the same things, but from distinctly different viewpoints,” Glassman said. “Zvi deals with people in crisis, through Amudim and Hatzalah, with boots on. Dr. Siegel discussed the psychological treatment side of things. And I spoke as an affected parent.”