By Matthew E. Berger

B'nai B'rith Magazine - Fall 2007

After she stopped drinking and drugging at 21, Sarah Rosenzweig described to her incredulous mother how she had spent most of the previous seven years under the influence, losing jobs and traveling across the country to escape her demons. "I said to her, 'I was high all the time-how did you not notice?'

"And the first thing my mom said to me was, 'Are you sure? Jewish people aren't alcoholics,'" Rosenzweig recalls.

This is not an uncommon sentiment. Often, according to experts on Jewish addiction, cultural norms can interfere with recognizing signs of substance abuse and thwart proper treatment. Glasses of wine, for instance, are an integral part of many Jewish religious and cultural activities, from the Kiddush to such holidays as Passover and Purim.

Regardless of how the substance abuse starts-a religious activity or youthful experimentation grown out of control-those closest to the situation frequently don't recognize the problem.

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