Stop stigmatizing illegal drug users

Image via

Image via

Just because a drug is legal doesn’t make it any better

By Katie Czenczek, Staff Writer


It is hypocritical to stigmatize illegal drug use, and yet be completely fine with alcohol and tobacco.

First off, alcohol has recently scored highest in the category of harmful substances in a UK study conducted by David Nutt and others in the Lancet. It beat out heroin, crack cocaine, meth, and a flurry of other illegal drugs. This study accounted for many different factors, including dependency, harmfulness to users, and harmfulness to others. Tobacco was wedged in just below cocaine in harm to users. Noticeably, mushrooms, LSD, and ecstasy all scored near the bottom.

Why, then, is alcohol a completely acceptable substance to use, while illegal drugs are not? If it’s more dangerous, why do we have half-time show ads promoting it on national television?

I’m not saying that everyone should throw tomatoes at people drinking beer, or should start dropping acid at music festivals. Rather, I think we need to start looking at drug use a little differently.

The link between childhood trauma and drug addiction has already been well established. According to an article posted on, “two-thirds of all addicts [have] previously experienced some type of physical or sexual trauma during childhood.” This link is important because the conversations surrounding addiction rarely address why people turn to drugs in the first place. Drugs can be used to dull pain, so why are we focused on treating drug use instead of the reasons why someone uses drugs?

Addiction is still a prickly topic for people. It’s incredibly hard for addicts to come forward and get help, or for those who’ve recovered to speak out about it. When you have people like the Marpole protestors claiming that homeless people are dangerous because drugs will be brought into the community, you do more harm than good. Interventionism has been proven not to work for a long time and people need support when struggling with addiction.

When people condemn drug users, they’re missing the whole picture. Yes, drugs are bad for your health, but the people that use them are not immoral monsters. In no way are drug users any worse than anyone else. Yet drug users are heavily stigmatized for powerful addictions that are difficult to control.

Overall, the crux of this issue is connected to the legality of certain substances. Why can’t all drugs be decriminalized? That way, drug use can be regulated, and the government can even make some money rather than wasting funds by arresting drug users. It could help with stigmatization and would also, ideally, be safer for people to consume. It wasn’t that long ago that the Prohibition was in full swing, which made drinking alcohol illegal. We changed those laws when they proved ineffective. Therefore, it’s possible for these laws to be amended when they’re obviously not working.

There is something to be said about a society that actively stigmatizes those who have often suffered the most. That is why I think there needs to be a shift in how we view drugs and the people who use them.

The Other Press

The Other Press, Douglas College's student newspaper since 1976. Articles, insight and updates from the New West and Coquitlam campuses.

More Posts - Website