TikToker debunks infamous urban legend about public restrooms: 'Demonizing people for views'

·2-min read

After a viral TikTok spread a dangerous rumor about drug users who use needles, a harm reduction organization stepped in to debunk it. 

“People are really out here cleaning their bloody drug needles in the toilet paper rolls in stores,” one user claimed, displaying what appeared to be a roll with small holes in it. The voice behind the @harmreductionservices account was quick to say that’s unequivocally untrue.

In their video response, @harmreductionservices called the claim “ridiculous,” and later said it was “demonizing people for views.” 

“No, they’re not,” they explained. “Needles dull very quickly, and using a dull needle is not only harmful to your health, but also incredibly painful. Nobody is going to try to clean needles by sticking them into something solid.”

They said people are much more likely to use something liquid like a bleach solution to clean their needles.

Also, @harmreductionservices pointed out that the comments on the original video that spread the urban legend were upsetting, to say the least, as people expressed their disgust and promised to never use a public restroom again.

“That’s the point of all urban legends, whether it’s needles in toilet paper rolls, gas pumps, hotel pillows … it’s to say that drug users are scary and we’re allowed to treat them badly,” they said. “Do better.”

The account represents Harm Reduction Services, an organization based in California that distributes millions of sterile syringes every year.

“The primary goal of harm reduction is to reduce the negative effects that may be experienced with substance use while not challenging a person’s right to use substances,” the organization’s website states. “The secondary goal is to provide people with resources when they do decide they would like to stop using substances.”

Commenters chimed in to thank the account for busting that myth — and to praise the work this organization does. 

“Thank you. Harm reduction saves lives,” one wrote.

“I’m so glad that users have a safe place with you. We already carry so much guilt, and one kind person really makes a difference,” another said.

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If you enjoyed this story, read more of our National Recovery Month coverage.

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