Words Can Hurt: Drug Rumors and Stigma
In today’s celebrity-obsessed culture, not a day goes by that some news or gossip site isn’t wondering about who’s using drugs or trying to quit using them. People tweet and retweet information that may or may not be true—from unconfirmed rumors about Zac Efron going to rehab for alleged cocaine abuse to Lamar Odom’s alleged drug use ruining his marriage to Khloe Kardashian.
In high school, the atmosphere is pretty much the same. On Monday morning, everyone’s talking about what everyone else may or may not have done over the weekend. It doesn’t take long for rumors to spread through the halls. Some rumors turn out to be true; others end up way different from what really happened.
Some rumors are harmless gossip; others have potentially life-changing consequences, such as if a rumor starts about a classmate using drugs.
Drug use is a big deal. Not only can it lead to addiction, it can also change the way people look at a person. This is called stigma. The reality is, people who use drugs need support and treatment, not to be judged and shamed. But that’s not usually how people react to a person’s rumored drug use. They may start to look at the person as unreliable, even dangerous.
It’s bad enough for a person who actually is using drugs. If the person is just the victim of an untrue rumor, they may feel helpless to set the record straight.
Once a rumor is posted to Facebook or Twitter, it can take on a life of its own. Suddenly, what started as whispers in the locker room now is out there for everyone to see—parents, teachers, employers, even admissions officers at colleges. If someone hears about a person using drugs, they may be less likely to trust the person, hire them, or even accept them into college.
A rumor can be almost impossible to fight against. It may cause someone to lose friends and opportunities. That’s why it’s best not to talk about people behind their backs or to believe a rumor without evidence that you see yourself.
If you hear about a classmate using drugs, does it change your view of him or her? What can you do if you are a victim of a false rumor? Tell us in comments.