“They didn't have any idea what drugs were”: Pathways to substance use disorders among ultraorthodox Jewish males

Yael Itzhaki-Braun, Belle Gavriel-Fried

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2 Scopus citations


Background: Substance use disorders (SUDs) are a worldwide phenomenon with very negative consequences, and belonging to a religious community is considered to be a protective factor against them. The pathways to SUDs have been investigated in many studies with the aim of helping us better understand this phenomenon and promoting effective intervention programs to prevent and manage it. However, there is a lack of knowledge regarding SUDs in closed religious communities such as the Ultraorthodox Jewish community. Method: To fill this gap, in the current study we investigated the pathways to SUDs among 14 young men from the Ultraorthodox Jewish community in Israel who were diagnosed as having an SUD in the past and who had been in sustained remission for at least a year. Semi-structured, in-depth interviews consisting of open-ended questions were conducted. Results: The findings highlighted two main themes: (a) A lack of support and attention from various systems, where participants reported sense of otherness or lack of belonging to family, educational institutions and community; a lack of responsiveness from those systems; a sense of rejection or exclusion; and a longing for belonging, and (b) A light in the darkness - someone who cares, in which the interviewees received some assistance, either in the period before or during drug use. Conclusion: Findings point to the unique experience of Ultraorthodox young men in their addiction process and shed light on the failure of the abovementioned systems to help these young men cope. Findings are discussed in the context of the theoretical perspectives of social capital theory and exclusion. Implications for intervention and policy are outlined.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103851
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
StatePublished - Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes

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© 2022 Elsevier B.V.


  • Social capital
  • Social isolation
  • Substance use disorder
  • Tight culture
  • Ultraorthodox Jewish


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