Resolution on the Opioid Epidemic in the United States and Canada

Posted on: Wednesday February 28, 2018

Whereas, according to the United States Department of Health and Human services, currently 175 people die every day from opioid related drug overdoses in the United States, and at least 1,460 deaths have occurred in Canada in the first half of 2017 with projections of over 4,000 for the year when all data have been reported; and

Whereas, in the last 16 years, more than 200,000 Americans have died from overdoses related to prescription opioid use; and

Whereas, in 2016 alone, more than 11.5 million Americans ages 12 and older reported misuse of prescription opioids and nearly 950,000 Americans reported heroin use; and

Whereas, in Canada in the western provinces, from January to June 2017, 74% of apparent opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl or fentanyl analogues, compared to 53% in 2016; and

Whereas, death rates from opioids in British Columbia (30.2 per 100,000 people) from January to October 2017 are comparable to the highest death rates in American states (Delaware and Rhode Island, 30.8 per 100,000); and

Whereas, modern science and medicine has demonstrated that addiction is a chronic relapsing brain disease rather than a moral failing[1] ;and

Whereas, both Presidents Obama and Trump have called public attention to the emergency nature of the opioid health crisis in the United States of America; and 

Whereas, the economic costs related to the illicit use of drugs in the United States of America are in the hundreds of billions of dollars a year while the industries,[2] individuals, and companies that provide and profit from illegal opioid and other illicit drug sales represent business in the hundreds of billions of dollars; and

Whereas, the Torah teaches, "Hishamer l'kha...," "...take utmost care and watch yourselves scrupulously," (Deut. 4:9) which Judaism has interpreted as a command to care for both the health of one’s body and soul, encompassing also one's emotional health and, "Lo ta'amod al dam re'ekha," "You must not stand idly by the blood of your fellow," understood by our tradition to teach our responsibility to bring healing to all in need (S.A. Yoreh Deah 336:1); and

Whereas, effective medical treatments such as methadone, buprenorphine, and Vivitrol are readily available for people with opioid dependence and have demonstrated higher success rates in preventing relapse and overdose, and are harm reduction methods; we also recognize the efficacy of abstinence and recovery methods that treat the whole person including underlying causes of addiction, and

Whereas, the Rabbinical Assembly has consistently taken public positions to safeguard the health and welfare all of God’s children everywhere, and

Whereas, during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s once the stigma of the disease was lifted, many more people sought treatment and many more lives could be saved,

Therefore, be it resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly encourage its members and supporters to educate themselves and their communities and speak about the issues of the opioid crisis and addiction forcefully and publicly, in a way that de-stigmatizes those suffering from addiction and their families, and that encourages acceptance and tolerance, through the understanding that addiction is a chronic relapsing condition that needs to be treated through medical, emotional, and spiritual approaches, and not by incarceration; and

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly encourage its partner organizations in the Conservative/Masorti Movement, and in the wider Jewish world, to use their educational and teaching resources to shed light on this national and international emergency, and provide education to those who might be vulnerable and their families; and

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly encourage local, regional and national legislative and administrative governmental bodies to better monitor physicians and drug manufacturers to prevent drug diversion and illicit use of prescription opioids; and

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly urge governmental agencies to make medication assisted treatments (MAT) prescribed by qualified professionals including methadone, buprenorphine, and Vivitrol widely available and affordable to people with opioid dependence and to insist that insurance companies provide maximum reimbursement to patients and clinics for such treatment; and

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly encourage its members and supporters to educate themselves about the problems of addiction in their own communities and take leadership roles in helping allay this tragedy; and

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly encourage its members serving congregations to host 12 Step meetings in their synagogues, including MAT-friendly Narcotics Anonymous programs; and

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly encourage its members and supporters to provide pastoral care, guidance, and encouragement to those families and individuals afflicted with addiction and to make appropriate referrals for treatment when needed.

 


[1] https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/science-drug-abuse-addiction-basics
[2] https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs44/44731/44731p.pdf - page 4