Is Including a Friend’s Cocaine Addiction Controversial in a College Essay?

Question by Snow White Queen: Is including a friend’s cocaine addiction controversial in a college essay?
I wrote a college essay about ways I’ve grown as a person, strengthened, and matured, and I included a few sentences about overcoming depression and being hospitalized, and helped my best friend cope with a cocaine addiction. It’s not all what the essay is about, but those two things are included. My dad looked at my essay without me knowing and told me today that I should probably take those things out, because they’re controversial and I’ll be looked at as a liability. What do you think? What should I do?

Best answer:

Answer by Boomer Rat
Sadly, yes. Though they are very commendable acts and progress, you may be looked on unfavourably. Though colleges will deny it, most places (and this will include workplaces, too, when you look for a job) will not want to hire people who have or have recovered from mental illness. Sadly, there is a great stigma about mental illness (including depression) and most employers or colleges will worry that you will have another episode whilst you are with them. For colleges, this can mean that they lose out on tutoring you fully; for employers, they lose a worker and still have to pay them. It’s not fair, but that is the way the world currently works, unless you are going in for a position as a therapist or a counsellor. Unscrupulous employers may even use it as a chance to get you out of employment if they need to lay people off.

As to mentioning your friend’s drug problem, I would not mention it – because that person may wish it to be a private problem. It’s inconsiderate to write about someone else’s personal problems, even when you are making it anonymous or have changed their names in the text.

What you’d be better off doing is mentioning other, less controversial things that you’ve done to help you grow. This could be volunteering, or other projects, or extra classes.

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One Response to Is Including a Friend’s Cocaine Addiction Controversial in a College Essay?

  • Lost In The Aether says:

    Yep. Aside from your friend’s privacy, which I presume (hope) you’ve already factored in, you’re putting out there two serious things which may stigmatise you in the future.

    You and I both know there’s no shame in mental illness, including substance issues, but most people aren’t that open minded. The coke addiction thing isn’t even just potentially bad for him – people will view you as a lesser person for associating with druggie scum. It sucks, but so do most people.

    I’ve been hospitalised for depression and I’ve been addicted to numerous drugs, but it’s hardly something I would ever publicise. Even though I don’t live in the US where the stigma is so much greater and a culture of hate and blame prevails, I don’t need to risk making life any more unpleasant than it already has been.

    Cut it. Those few sentences can’t possibly be worth the risk.

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