What is HAMSA?
HAMSA, or Helping Atlantans Manage Substance Abuse, is a comprehensive substance abuse program for the Jewish community that is building bridges between Jews affected by substance abuse and their families and the support of the Jewish community. Together with clergy and members of the community, JF&CS’s HAMSA program is working to dispel the myth that Jews are not affected by substance abuse and addiction issues. HAMSA serves the community as an all-inclusive resource for education and clinical services relating to substance abuse.
Addiction in the Jewish Community
A deep level of shame and denial exists within many Jewish communities across the country regarding addiction. A common myth is that Jews do not have problems with drugs or alcohol. The reality is that alcoholism and drug addiction do not discriminate; they affect Jews as often as they do any other group.Roughly 10% of the United States population is affected by alcoholism or drug addiction. This indicates that 10% of the 5.5 million Jews living in the United States are affected by substance abuse issues. A key objective of the HAMSA program is to promote an open and honest dialogue about substance abuse within our community.
Addiction does not only manifest itself in the form of drugs or alcohol. There are many different substances and behaviors that people can find themselves addicted to. These include, but are not limited to:
- The internet
Many of the resources and treatment facilities offered to alcoholics and addicts are also trained and equipped to treat other and multiple addictive behaviors.
Who is an Addict?
People of any age, sex or economic status can become addicted to alcohol and other drugs. However, certain factors can affect the likelihood of your developing an addiction:
- Family history of alcoholism or addiction: Drug addiction is more common in some families and likely involves a genetric influence. If you have a blood relative, such as a parent or sibling, with alcohol or drug problems, you’re at greater risk of developing a drug addiction.
- Having another psychological issue: If you have a psychological issue, such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you’re more likely to become dependent on alcohol or other drugs.
- Taking a highly addictive drug: Some drugs, such as heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and some prescription medications, cause addiction faster than others.
- Peer pressure: Particularly for young people, peer pressure is a strong factor in starting to use and abuse alcohol and other drugs.
- Anxiety, depression and loneliness: Using alcohol and other drugs can become a way of coping with these painful psychological feelings.
How Do I Know if I Need Help?
- Do most or all of your social activities include drinking, smoking marijuana or using drugs?
- Have you had regrets about your behavior after drinking or using drugs?
- Do you drink or use drugs more than you used to to get the same effect
- Have you ever forgotten all or part of an evening after drinking?
- Have you ever missed work, a class, or done poorly on a test because of drinking or using drugs?
- Have you ever had personal, legal or financial problems related to drinking or using drugs but didn’t alter your use patterns?
- Do you have any family members with an alcohol or other drug problem?
- Have you ever tried to stop or reduce your alcohol or drug usage, but weren’t successful?
Supporting a Friend or Loved One Struggling with Addiction.It is important to understand that there is no “on” button or “off” button for addiction. This battle takes time and patience. Addiction often results in concern, hurt feelings, disappointment and anger among those close to the addict. It is important to build your own support system for the inevitable ups and downs. Counseling and peer support groups can be very effective for friends and family members. There are also many informative books on the subject.
- Respect that their relationship to alcohol may be different than yours
- Do not offer them alcohol
- Do not drink alcohol around them
- Educate yourself about the disease
- Ask them how their recovery is going
- Listen without judgment
- Do not give advice unless they ask for it
- Congratulate them on milestones (ex. 30 days, 6 months, 1 year sober)
- Invite them to do social things that do not involve drinking
- Be optimistic and enthusiastic
- Stay in touch, text, call, email or visit
- If a relapse occurs, do not lose hope