happenings at achiezer

Madraigos and Achiezer Present: Marijuana and Alcohol in 2021
July 12, 2021
It was an event geared toward educating parents, but it turned out to be so much more. It was an uplifting, insightful evening that left its attendees informed - even inspired- and confident to take on the challenges of raising children in today's times. In fact, the feedback to the program conveyed all anyone needs to know about just how monumental it was. One professional called it "a game-changer."

Titled "What We All Need to Know About Marijuana and Alcohol in 2021," the program was presented by Madraigos and Achiezer, two beloved communal organizations. The event, which was free of charge, was held at Congregation Beth Sholom in Lawrence, with a livestream option for those participating remotely. Hundreds took advantage of this opportunity.

The purpose of the event, which was the brainchild of Rabbi Dov Silver, founder and executive vice president of Madraigos, was to discuss marijuana use and alcohol consumption in today's times, when these items are so easily accessible, even among youngsters.

Rabbi Silver opened the program with Tehillim for the victims in Surfside, as well as all of the victims suffering from issues related to substance and alcohol abuse.

As the speakers at the event mentioned, with marijuana now legal in some 18 states, its use by teenagers is a major concern to parents.

"Some people begin to think that this drug must not be so bad," remarked Rabbi Boruch Ber Bender, president of Achiezer, who served as emcee. "After all, marijuana is now legal in some states and alcohol is permitted to anyone above age 21. We are here tonight to dispel that notion and to provide parents- and young adults- with the information they need to ensure the health and wellbeing of all members of the community."

Speakers highlighted the fact that there's been a dramatic rise in underage drinking, a matter of grave concern to parents and professionals. Whether teens are accessing alcohol through friends or simply taking spirits from their parents' home, this has become a pressing issue.

Rabbi Bender introduced Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, who delivered opening remarks. The commissioner spoke about the effects of marijuana being legalized and what the police officials are seeing from their standpoint as far as buying and selling the drug is concerned.

A fascinating panel discussion followed, moderated by Phil Goldfeder, SVP of Public Affairs at Cross River Bank. The panelists were Dr. David Pelcovitz, professor, Strauss Chair in Psychology and Education at Yeshiva University; Dr. Binyomin Tepfer, PhD, CSAT, a marriage therapist who specializes in addictions; and Dr. Elliott Salamon, clinical professor of neurology at Northwell Health, who has worked extensively to identify the ramifications of marijuana and alcohol on brain health and their long-term effects.

The panelists discussed the physical and neurological effects of marijuana and alcohol, and the differences between adults and adolescents. Are there any-long term effects of using marijuana? Is there an addiction to marijuana itself? What are the different types of marijuana? What is the difference between "smoking a joint," eating an "edible," and vaping marijuana?

Dr. Tepfer discussed the impact on marriages when one spouse is using marijuana or alcohol. When should a spouse be concerned about their husband's/wife's marijuana or alcohol usage?

Dr. Tepfer also addressed what marijuana does to adolescents as they grow into adults, impacting their ability to feel. When they learn to rely on substances," he averred, "they don't feel the ups and downs of life that form them into adults."

Dr. Tepfer also shared that evidence provided by schools indicates an "astronomical" rise in marijuana use among students.

"Substance abuse doesn't happen in a vacuum," said Dr. Tepfer. "There is a reason behind its use." He added a glimmer of hope to those whose children may already be using marijuana and alcohol. Just as with every life challenge, he has seen that "who go through this struggle and come out the other side aren't ordinary. They have the potential to become extraordinary."

Other questions presented to the panel included: Is there reason for alarm when parents notice any type of alcohol or marijuana use or should they wait to seek help when it becomes a more habitual behavior? Is alcohol dangerous for adolescents when used in moderation? How truly accessible is marijuana for adolescents?

Dr. Pelcovitz highlighted the short-term and long-term potential ramifications of marijuana being legalized.

Dr. Pelcovitz mentioned that new studies are revealing new information that is different from old research. "Alcohol addiction is no longer more prevalent among boys," he said. Unfortunately, "It is now evening out, and girls are just as much at risk."

Dr. Pelcovitz stressed that "The right time to talk to your kids is right now. It is so much harder to stop once they start, so we have to get ahead of the curve."

Dr. Salamon pointed out the marijuana is often laced with cocaine, PCP, and synthetic drugs.

"One joint may not be the end of your life, but...it may be," Dr. Salamon remarked.

"Smoking anything," he added, "puts you at risk for all the elements that cigarettes put you at risk for."

"The goal of the evening," summed up Mindi Werblowsky, LCSW, Clinical Director at Madraigos, "was for people to walk away informed, understanding marijuana and alcohol use and how these substances are impacting individuals and relationships. Thankfully, we accomplished that, as attendees emerged with a fuller understanding of the challenges we are facing and what some of the practical solutions are."

"It was an honor for Achiezer to partner with Madraigos for this incredible event," said Rabbi Bender. "The presenters- all foremost experts on this topic- were amazing. Attendees, both in-person and online, gained so much knowledge- and so much chizuk. The presentations were compelling and substantive. It was truly a powerful event. It is our hope that as a community, we'll continue to make a real impact on people in relation to this very important subject."

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