Social Work Expert Says Some 40,000 to 50,000 U.S. Jews Are Alcoholics; and More Jews Are Turning to
Menu JTA Search

Social Work Expert Says Some 40,000 to 50,000 U.S. Jews Are Alcoholics; and More Jews Are Turning to

A projection that 40,000 to 50,000 American Jews are alcoholics has been made by a Jewish social work expert who directs his agency’s drug and alcohol unit. He also said that ever more Jews are turning to drugs.

The expert, Dr. Milton Deutsch, directs a new drug and alcohol abuse program, “Living Free,” sponsored by the Jewish Community Services of Long Island (JCSLI), with headquarters in Rego Park, Queens.

Morton Moskin, agency president, said “Living Free” was created to meet the needs of people who rely on drugs or alcohol to solve problems and to ease physical and emotional pain.

Deutch said “we live in a world where drug and alcohol abuse is no longer confined to the addict. Substance abuse can happen to anyone and, contrary to the myth that Jewish people are not drinkers, is the grim reality that alcoholism among the Jewish people is estimated to be between one and eight percent, which represents 40,000 to 50,000 American Jews who are alcoholics.” Comparable figures have also been given by other experts in the field.

Since the start of this year, 408 clients have been seen in the Rego Park office and 222 residents of Nassau County at the agency office in Hempstead. Deutsch said women clients represent 67 percent of the participants in Queens and 42 percent of Nassau County clients.

Most were in the 31 to 40 year age group, followed by 35 percent aged 22 to 30. Half of the clients were marijuana users. The other half were multiple drug abusers, representing combinations of heroin, barbiturates, cocaine, alcohol and marijuana.


He said counselors in the “Living Free” program report that most persons who abuse drugs are single people who are lonely. Some feel isolated and have anxieties about making new acquaintances. They find singles bars and parties a hard way to form a social life and turn to drugs to ease their loneliness.

He said others abuse drugs to escape from the many problems stemming from divorce and from the pressures of being single parents. Many drug abusers were found to be beset with financial problems, unemployment, or living on marginal incomes. Most of them were found to have low self-esteem and to lack self-confidence.

He said the program encourages drug users to deal with their problems directly rather than to try to escape from them by use of drugs. The therapy gives them a chance to ventilate their feelings and helps them to focus on the problems which forced them to turn to drugs or alcohol as their coping mechanism, Dr. Deutsch said.


Clients are counseled to become involved in groups whose members have a commonality of interests. Unemployed clients helped to find jobs improved greatly.

Counselors report finding that a growing number of people are turning to “innocent” drugs, including tranquilizers, sleeping pills, over-the-counter and prescription drugs, in addition to hard drugs and marijuana.

Deutsch said many middle-class Jews use all kinds of drugs, from cocaine to codeine, adding that they do not fit “the old stereotype of the depraved addict.”

Deutsch, who is JCSLI assistant executive director, said present day drug abusing Jews “are students, business people, professionals, housewives and older men and women.” He said young people are the most frequent marijuana users, with cocaine use spreading at an “alarming” rate in this group. Cocaine is the choice among Jews in their 20’s and 30’s. Older Jews generally get “hooked” on prescription drug pain killers, tranquilizers and “anything with cocaine in it.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund