Predictors of stigmatization towards use of various illicit drugs among emerging adults

Joseph J. Palamar, Mathew V. Kiang, Perry N. Halkitis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The stigma associated with illegal drug use is nearly universal, but each drug is associated with its own specific level of stigma. This study examined level of stigmatization towards users of various illegal drugs and determined what variables explain such attitudes. A sample of emerging adults (age 18 to 25) was surveyed throughout New York City (N = 1021) and lifetime use, level of exposure to users, and level of stigmatization was assessed regarding use of marijuana, powder cocaine, Ecstasy, and nonmedical use of opioids and amphetamine. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were conducted to examine predictors of stigmatization towards each drug. Results suggest that non-illegal drug users reported high levels of stigmatization towards users of all drugs, but lifetime marijuana users reported significantly lower levels of stigmatization towards users of all harder drugs. This may suggest that once an individual enters the realm of illegal drug use, stigmatization towards use of harder drugs decreases, potentially leaving individuals at risk for use of more dangerous substances. Since stigma and social disapproval may be protective factors against illegal drug use, policy experts need to consider the potential flaws associated with classifying marijuana with harder, more dangerous drugs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-251
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychoactive Drugs
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


  • Disapproval
  • Emerging adults
  • Exposure
  • Stigma
  • Urban health


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