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Drugs & Health Blog

Words Can Hurt: Drug Rumors and Stigma

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated. For the latest content, please visit the main Drugs & Health Blog page.
Sara Bellum

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.

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


sometimes i think that it is rude to talk behind my back so and spread rumors.
what is HIV and AIDS

@Anonymous, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). AIDS is a disease of the immune system that can be treated, but not cured. HIV destroys certain cells in the immune system—the body’s disease-fighting system. HIV converts the cells into “factories” that produce more HIV virus to infect other healthy cells. Without these cells, a person with HIV can’t fight off germs and becomes more prone to illness and common infections. To learn more, check out Drug Facts: HIV, AIDS, and Drug Abuse.

people are saying that im on drugs and im not (this is because I was feeling happy and 'going with the flow' in maths) and Im scared in case it gets around to the teachers
We can't help that people love to highlight the bad on others, and it has been said, only someone who is wise can judge himself fairly, because it is easy to judge others, but to admit we have deffects, could be hard. Now, it don't have to be a rumor, it could be something you consider you have in your private life, and since it is your life, and it is your personal space, it should be respected by everyone else. If someone decides to make something public, in some "circle" or "community" the it should stay within the circle or community. No has the right to tell your truth but you, and you will do it, whe you think its appropriate and when know you are ready to face what comes after. Do not push people into empty pools, or even worse, do not push someone into a pool, if he's not ready to swim, you could not only destroy someones life, but you could destroy a family, hurt a mother, a father, a daughter, a son. If you have good intentions, keep t hem to yourself, there is always room for personal improvement, and as humans we should always be trying to be a better self, than to better someone else.
There's currently a rumor in my school that me and my friend smoked weed over the weekend. It is sad because the girl who spread it was my friends best friend. I think she is jealous of me and her being best friends now. I am just scared to go to school now because people are going to judge me And I'm afraid the teachers are going to judge me too. I got called down to the counselors office and told her the truth and so did my friend. I just hope I don't get in trouble.

We are sorry to hear you are having a hard time at school. Teens can be very cruel to each other. No matter what happened, it is important to remember that if you live your life honestly, and don’t get pulled into the drama and gossip, you will be happier. Just tell people you are not willing to be part of the drama. Live your life with dignity, hold your head up high, and over time people will realize what kind of person you are.

someone started telling people that i am on drugs when i am not and never have used drugs and now when i walk down the street kids from my school will start yelling at me about how i do drugs so everyone can hear and i dont know how to stop it

I’m so sorry this is happening to you! Please try to hold your head high and be proud of your smart decision not to do drugs. The best thing to do is ignore these comments. If you need more support, please ask a trusted adult for help and advice.