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Overcoming Addiction in the Jewish Community: Challenges and Solutions

Addiction recovery

Addiction, or substance use disorder (SUD), is listed in the DSM-5 as a chronic, relapsing brain disorder. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), addiction is a “complex condition in which there is uncontrolled use of substance despite harmful consequence.” Data from 2022 presented by the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, indicate that addiction affects over 20 million Americans aged 12 and older. A recent survey revealed that 41.2% of Jewish individuals knew someone who currently battled substance abuse in their community, and 23.5% of respondents had a family history of drug or alcohol abuse. Addiction can be framed as a repeating cycle with different stages. These recurring stages are called a cycle because they generally progress in a repetitive pattern until some form of treatment takes place to intervene and alleviate the addiction. Overcoming addiction, in any community is challenging, and the Jewish community is no exception. 

Challenges and Solutions

Members of the Jewish community face distinct cultural, religious, and social factors that can present as unique challenges when it comes to overcoming substance use disorder. Some of these challenges and possible solutions, provided by the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies, include the following:  

  • Stigma as a barrier to treatment: Although addiction is accurately recognized as a complex mental health condition, lingering stigma remains.
    • Challenge: Withing the Jewish community there is an emphasis on family reputation and social standing which can create reluctance to admit the presence of addiction due to fear of shame and stigma.
    • Solution: Overcoming stigma requires promoting open conversations about mental health and addiction. Encouraging these types of conversations about addiction within religious settings, emphasizing the importance of support and understanding, and highlighting personal stories of recovery within the community can humanize the struggle with addiction, reducing stigma.
  • Lack of awareness and education: Cultural myths and fallacies about addiction can delay intervention and hinder understanding and acceptance of evidence-based treatments.
    • Challenge: Misconceptions about addiction and limited awareness of available resources might prevent individuals from seeking help, fearing isolation or discrimination. 
    • Solution: Engage community leaders, religious figures, and influencers to advocate for addiction awareness and support. Implementing educational programs in schools, religious institutions, and community centers to inform individuals of all ages about the risks of substance abuse as well as organizing workshops and seminars within the community about addiction (e.g., its signs, symptoms, prevalence, risk factors, etc.) and available resources can help to raise awareness.
  • Culturally insensitive treatment options: Access to addiction treatment services that are culturally sensitive and understanding of Jewish customs are often limited, particularly in certain areas.
    • Challenge: There is a shortage of culturally competent service providers and insufficient adaptations to treatment protocols for observant members of the Jewish community struggling with addiction. 
    • Solution: Establish treatment centers that are culturally sensitive, respecting Jewish traditions, dietary laws, and religious observances. Further, all mental health providers working within the Jewish community should be trained to understand the cultural nuances and religious aspects related to addiction.

Through addressing the unique challenges while leveraging the strengths of the Jewish community, it is possible to create a supportive environment where individuals struggling with addiction can find help, hope, and healing. Collaboration between community leaders, religious figures, mental health professionals, and families is essential in providing the necessary support and resources for successful recovery.

For Information and Support 

Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous and can result in severe short and long-term consequences. If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone, and we are here to help. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. We are available anytime via telephone at: 213-389-9964, or you can always email us at:

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