Oct. 30, 2014

The stigmas that surround drug culture — but not alcohol use

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April 24, 2014

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If you’ve never been exposed to drug culture, especially by the time you’ve reached college, you’re either lying or your parents are actual saints. Regardless of whether you participate in any sort of drug use or not, you’ve more than likely been put in a situation where drugs were involved. You’ve also probably been exposed to alcohol in underage situations. What’s curious is that people tend to see the two as different. Alcohol is, in fact, a drug. Both impair your body’s ability to function, put you in potentially dangerous situations and, oh yeah, both are equally illegal — at least for those under the age of 21.

So why is there a certain noxious stigma around drug culture that doesn’t seem to exist around alcohol use? For the record, this column doesn’t condone the use of either substance, but it will point out the double standard society holds over drug culture.

Look at AlcoholEdu. Why isn’t there a DrugEdu? Underage consumption of alcohol is illegal, yet schools across the country teach incoming students how to safely use it as if it is expected to happen. On the other hand, they provide no such safety toolkit for drug use. The five-minute section of AlcoholEdu on drugs is essentially a neon yellow sign screaming “DON’T DO DRUGS,” and it’s left at that. In comparison to alcohol use, drug use has been downplayed to the verge of taboo, yet it’s just as common.

As a result of this odd societal taboo, judgment is diverted away from those who use alcohol and is cast onto those who use drugs. That is not to say that drug users don’t deserve some sort of judgment for their illicit behavior, but they don’t deserve hypocritical judgment from those who actively use and possibly even abuse alcohol. Somehow, druggies and alcoholics aren’t judged the same way even though they experience many of the same consequences. There are people who think that abusing alcohol and blacking out every weekend is socially acceptable but getting stoned in your basement and playing video games isn’t. In many cases, the rate of consumption of alcohol by underage drinkers actually creates more potentially dangerous consequences than certain drug usage.

The emphasis of judgment is misplaced. Alcohol and drugs are both illegal. Both can have dangerous physical consequences. Both can result in severe legal punishment. Alcohol use is no less deserving of critique than drug use, and people who use one or the other shouldn’t be judged differently for doing so.

I’ve come to accept the fact that regardless of my personal behavior and beliefs, I will have acquaintances and maybe even friends who actively use illegal substances. But a friend who uses drugs is no less valuable than a friend who drinks alcohol.

Email Kaitlan Shaub at kcshaub@email.wm.edu.

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