Hiding From the Stigma of Drug Use – by “The XY”
Regardless of where you stand on the continuum, drugs are the recreation that dare not speak its name. We know it’s out there, we know that everyone from lawyers and doctors (always the establishment shorthand for ‘respectable people’) to street cleaners and the ‘underclass’ are using them. But if I’m ever asked in a professional capacity about them, I have to give a blanket ‘No, never’ that completely ignores the myriad shades of grey that is the drug reality and instead reduces it to the binary dichotomy of ‘for’ or ‘against’.
I am not a regular drug user, I only occasionally dabble and I’m ambivalent about them. I’d like to think one day I’ll arrive at a point where I don’t need any of them – coffee and alcohol included. Perhaps I’ll exude an inner peace that enables me to pass on the booze, pills and powder – avoiding such ‘weakness”.
So why am I writing anonymously? Because I have something to hide or feel shame about? No, but because I sometimes work with under-18s and – call me paranoid – I don’t want to take the chance in our internet-savvy age that someone will search my name and then it will be linked with drugs.
Even in a balanced environment – such as this project aims to create – where the people that love their drugs will be the Yin to the Yang of those with cautionary tales urging moderation or abstinence. Even here, even expressing a healthy (in my own personal view) ambivalence about drugs, I dare not take the chance that my name could come up juxtaposed to the powerful 5-letter word that can spell stigma, suspicion and the sack.
Because the fear of being associated with this ‘dirty’ phenomenon is too great to risk losing one’s job, especially in the ‘current economic climate’. The Scarlet Letter of today or the new homosexuality – however you want to label it – being branded a ‘user’ can have consequences.
It mirrors the debate about when – or in some places whether – we tell our children about sex. Do we hide them in the dark and hope they won’t come across it until they’re of the ‘right’ age (and that will vary depending on your values/views); or do we try and educate them so they know about it before it hunts them out in our increasingly sexually-commodified society? And if we do the latter, are we robbing them of their innocence?
I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, and I’m wary of anyone who says they do. But I know that to ask these questions in relation to the sphere of drugs inspires a fear; a fear that to be heard talking about drugs is to be labeled and to have doubt thrown on one’s character.
One person may ask how we can possibly hope to have an adult debate while this stigma persists? Another may say it’s a question of degree – there are some types or levels of behaviour that need stigma as a deterrent. A Saturday night pill in a club is not the same as robbing for a fix, right? And societies run on consensus – with no borders or parameters (‘norms’ in sociological speak) we’d have no reference points, right?
You may think I’m paranoid; and perhaps you’d be right. But this very paranoia is in itself indicative of the latent power that this emotive issue carries. The fact that I’m even thinking like this is part and parcel of all the talking that we’re NOT doing.
So if you don’t mind; I’ll hide behind anonymous until the day we can discuss this without fear of being branded. Perhaps this site can be part of the process that gets us there.