By Adil James, MMNS
Bloomfield Hills-December 28–The issue of substance abuse is one which is hard to address in non-Muslim households, let alone Muslim families, whose Holy Book expressly forbids the use of intoxicants and who many times have cultural experience out of line with the reality in America. For instance, in Muslim countries, alcohol although it may be freely available is always concealed and frowned upon, not for sale on every street corner.
The subject of substance abuse was the focus of a lecture on Friday night at the Bloomfield Unity Center (BMUC) by Rashid Flewellen, a clinical social worker of Muslim Family Services.
About 20 people were present for the lecture, a relatively small number for Friday events at BMUC, and this was explained by Roze Kadry, a member of the board of directors at BMUC, as stemming from the stigma attached to substance abuse.
Ms. Kadry began the event by quoting a statistic that 80% of Muslim children do not use drugs. Yet this is still disturbing if 20% do.
Dr. Rashid opened by addressing the long history of sugar plantations in the West Indies, the production of rum there, and the relation of the slave trade and of the entrapment of native peoples by means of intoxicants.
He then explored a statistic which he explained, which was that steadily over time, immigrant families acquire the same bad habits of American youths such as substance abuse.
Dr. Flewellen engaged those present on the issue of what a drug is, and offered the definition that it is any substance that alters normal bodily functions.
Asked he, â€œWhat is the most common drug used by people?â€ After engaging the audience on their answers, he said â€œI would make the case that sugar is the number 1 drug.â€ He emphasized also that prescription drugs are in fact body-changing drugs, and are themselves frequently abused.
He emphasized the stressful nature of daily life now, and offered that people who are stressed â€œattempt to self-medicateâ€ and thus use whatever is available in response to painful stimuli, whether alcohol, nicotine, or other drugs.
He explained that American adolescents surveyed said that 80% claimed it was easy or fairly easy to get marijuana, 25% claimed it easy to acquire cocaine, and in 2005 15% of surveyed 12 to 17 year olds â€œhad been approached by someone selling drugs in the last month.â€
He briefly described some of the obvious physical signs of drug use, such as being unkempt, glassy eyes, distraction, becoming unavailable, minty breath, unusual risky behavior, and legal problems.
The advice he gave parents was to engage young people without too much judgment, using their own interests to explore what is happening with them, and he demonstrated this patient understanding and listening in a role-playing event with a fellow Muslim Family Service volunteer, who explained how in a stressful time in her youth she began slowly slowly using more and more powerful drugs–what started as fun and a means of feeling included began spiralling out of control until she herself was selling drugs. She explained how she had converted to Islam, cleaned up her life, and said that â€œIf not for Islam, I would have died.â€