Drug deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities in the United States. Fueling the surge in deaths are prescription pain and anxiety drugs that are potent, highly addictive and especially dangerous when combined with one another or with other drugs or alcohol. Among the most commonly abused are OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax and Soma.
Jews have an unearned reputation for sobriety. The 1997 LA Jewish Population Survey found that one-in-forty, or 6000 LA Jewish households reported having at least one member who needed assistance with problems of alcohol or substance abuse. There is a higher acceptance of use of substances such as marijuana in the Jewish community than the general population.
The Jewish population is growing older and that does not mean a lessening of the problem. Even Biblical Noah turned to drink in his old age. Alcohol and substance abuse among the elderly is a hidden epidemic. It is believed that about 10% of this country’s population abuses alcohol, but surveys revealed that as many as 17% of the over-65 adults have an alcohol-abuse problem.
As we age as a community, the proportion of Jews who turn to alcohol and and substance abuse is certain to increase. Currently, my conservative estimate is that there are at least eight thousand Jewish households in Los Angeles having at least one member who need assistance with problems of alcohol or substance abuse.
It would not be surprising if there was a disproportionate number Jews dying of drug deaths within this general societal trend. Only a new Jewish population can confirm whether the problem has worsened in the past 14 years..