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Death From Heroin

By: David Mandel  

Shortly before Simchas Torah, an article focused on teenage use of alcohol and drugs (Jewish Press, September 24, 1999). 

A teenage girl responded with the following letter which is reprinted here with her permission. This letter requires no introduction or explanation. It is honest and frightening. Read on. 

"Dear David and all readers: 

This is a response to your recent article which included a major example of myself. I am a nineteen-year-old girl with a major drug issue. All of you out there, you read the weekly articles David writes, you marvel at the speed of which this generation is going down, you shake your head in sadness - but none of you know how close to home he is hitting. 

I started my downfall five years ago. Up to a couple of months ago I was totally irreligious with no interest in anything except getting a high off life. I lost a good job, spent my ten grand in savings and all I can show for myself is a fried and burnt out brain and heart. 

Listen to me, all of you out there: I know the hurt, I know the feeling of being rejected, loneliness, and rebellion. I know what it’s like to have the world against you; I know the need for escape. A hit of ecstasy, a line of cocaine takes you onto a different planet. For a couple of hours you might feel loved, and good and something special. But after that - the crash, oh my god, the crash is awful. All you want is to die. 

The depression, the physical pain, the guilt. You feel like garbage. That is when I would call David and say "you know I messed up again" and he would say, "you need help" and I, feeling so awful from the night before was convinced I would never touch that garbage again, would say my famous line "I can stop any time I want. I can stop right now. I have major self-control." 

But you know what, as strong as my self-control was, or any other virtue I could’ve called my own up to then, disappeared. Because that’s what drugs do to you. They own you. They control you. They are evil. They lie. And you know what? I stood to what I said. I did stop. Like for a day, or a week, or even a month - max. But that was it. 

I would forget the nausea, the chest pain, the depression following the downer of a drug. And the whole cycle would repeat itself. I can go on for pages and chapters of my battles with myself. But I won’t. 

I will just beg all of you out there, parents for starters, please, please, please be easy with those kids. I know it’s hard to accept, but recognize a problem, and treat it the right way. Don’t shove a kid off the track. Don’t push him away. We all want to be helped. It’s just hard because the future isn’t very picturesque for a teenager. I am a kid. I never had the chance to grow up. 

And now it’s too late. I threw the best years of my life away for a couple of trips to places that don’t exist in reality. To music and joy that just isn’t even there. It’s a fantasy. I landed with a crash. And you know what? I’m still struggling very much. I work now and am a full time student. I learnt how to say no. And I learnt it the hard way. 

I watched a seventeen-year-old friend of mine die just two months ago. 

She was such a pretty, smart girl from a frum home. And she had to die. 

Why? Because she loved doing heroin, her reason being that when she was high, she didn’t hear her father yell at her that her skirts were too short and she was a disgrace to her yichus. Listen to me. I know. Maybe I’m young, but I know. I wish I wouldn’t. But I do. And I want you all to know, kids and parents, that the pain is too strong to describe. It is physical and emotional and not something any of us want to live through. Kids out there, if you need to talk, please contact your counselor, your therapist, an older brother or a friend. 

I promise, nobody wants to see you get hurt. And we will talk to you. We’ll tell you our experiences and you’ll laugh at us. What we say to you might not penetrate at first but in the long run everyone wants to come home." 

What is your reaction to this letter? No one in the frum community does drugs? OK, maybe some drugs but not cocaine or heroin? Dream on! This seventeen-year-old lived and died in Flatbush. But then again we can walk away and say, well, everyone tried to help this girl and everything has been done. It’s no one’s fault but her own. What else can anyone do, kids have to take responsibility too. 

At OHEL we recently hired a frum addiction specialist. We are asked to treat adolescents who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. We will now begin an outpatient treatment program for these teenagers. 

There are some people in our community who cynically accuse OHEL of creating problems in the Orthodox community by developing these programs; they say there are no teenagers using drugs, there are no men abusing their wives, there are no men molesting children. If only it were so. Let those in need of help from OHEL, other organizations and private practitioners who specialize in these issues seek this much-needed counsel so that they can begin to help themselves. 

You may want to share this article with your teenager and discuss it. It’s a risk. However, one fact is clear, preventing the next overdose or death from drugs is possible. 

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