Faith and the Scourge of Opioids

By Rabbi Yehoshua S. Hecht

The shocking statistics of fatal heroin overdoses reported on the front pages of our local newspapers increasingly reflect the heartbreaking scourge of drugs and opioid dependency so prevalent today coast to coast of this great country.

The alarming statistic of 888 heroin related deaths that is anticipated by the end of the year within the state of Connecticut, as stated by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, serves as a wake-up call to every parent, member of the clergy and educator that we must reach out to help those most vulnerable before it is too late.

As mentioned, the menace of opioids, crack cocaine, heroine and anything laced with fentanyl has taken the lives of too many young people for us to continue to remain passive.

Recently, US Senator Chris Murphy and Congressman Jim Himes, both of CT, took part in a panel discussion at Fairfield University, at which time Fairfield University student Will Cromwell spoke of his two high school classmates from New Canaan, CT, who died from drug overdoses.

Drugs do not differentiate amongst their victims. Inner city youth as well as those from affluent communities are increasingly falling victim to drug addiction and fatal overdose.

What can we in society do about this? What advice can we as responsible adults give to prevent this dangerous malady from spreading to even more vulnerable people.

As we correctly protest violence in all of its forms including the proliferation of assault rifles, online and social media bullying, we are losing the battle to protect our young people from the dangers of opioids silently collecting and culling so many of our young citizens for the killer called drugs.

What value or principle in life are our young people missing in their upbringing and education that makes them susceptible or willing to take a chance on illegal and dangerous killer drugs?

As a parent and grandparent, serving in the clergy for nearly 40 years it is apparent to me that many people are looking for meaning and value in their life and they have difficulty identifying what they really need to feel fulfilled. Without feeling fulfilled many are tempted to resort to the temporary but life-threatening high of drugs.

Even those with a good primary and high school education and college background are vulnerable to experimentation with drugs and other destructive activities. Although they may have acquired a lot of information and knowledge about the world in which they live, they have little if any information on the intrinsic value of their inner existence and the spiritual meaning of life.

Granted, faith and belief in the Creator is no warranty or guarantee to ward off the lure of drugs. However, faith and trust in a Higher Being is demonstrably and quantitatively an effective and valuable tool to protect one from the allure of illicit drugs and its charms.

I know that one of the most effective and important values we can share with our young people is that the Creator of the Universe creates every human being with a spiritual purpose.

Faith and religion convey and share the “why and purpose” of life.

If we can mainstream the value of faith in the Creator back into our conscious lives and not relegate it to an occasional observance, our youth would come to know, believe and understand that their life has a higher spiritual purpose.

They would realize that their own existence and wellbeing is both a privilege and an obligation for safekeeping and protecting. They will be able to see that drugs are a mortal enemy to their spiritual existence and anathema to their responsibility as a human being who is entrusted to protect and enhance their well-being as being part of their relationship with their Creator.

It may very well be quite a compelling time for society to reconsider the banning of all expressions of faith in our schools and to reintroduce the moment of silence or non-denominational prayer into our schools and universities, thus helping to make the lure of drugs less appealing and life more meaningful and purposeful for all.

With the Jewish New Year 5780 beginning the eve of September 29, I believe that it is an opportune time to sound the alarm loudly on the dangers of opioids even as we sound the Shofar ram’s horn ushering in a new year and a new beginning to protecting and enhancing the lives and wellbeing of our communities.

Rabbi Yehoshua S. Hecht
Beth Israel Chabad of Westport/Norwalk
President Rabbinical Council of CT
Presidium Rabbinical Alliance of America

40 King Street
Norwalk, CT 06851