CRACK ROCK, CRACK ROCK – A GUEST POST

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If you or I didn’t like using drugs, and those in power didn’t fear the effects of them, then there wouldn’t be a drug problem. I’ll admit – we’ve always had an issue with drugs. But humans have always wanted a drug. We’ve always sought out those foods, drinks and substances that have a stimulating or euphoriant effect. But we also love drugs because we fear them. They offer risk, excitement and novelty.

But what is a drug? Presumably, it’s just a changing definition, a changing perception? Alcohol was once an illegal drug (well, in the US at least – the UK tried to prohibit gin – started a riot!). In 2004 Cannabis was downgraded from Class B to Class C – what happens if it goes further and falls out of the classification system altogether? M-CAT, or Meow Meow, used to be completely legal, only for it to be declared a Class B drug in 2010. (People then decided that if they were now going to be breaking the law to get drugs – perhaps cocaine or ecstasy would be better than plant fertiliser…?)

Drugs, though, tend to be psychoactive substances that are illegal – you know, coffee, tobacco, and alcohol cocaine, heroin and MDMA. Psychoactive substances affect mood, thought processes and perception. Governments decide what a drug is – but we don’t really know how. Take coca and tobacco: both are stimulants, both are addictive and both can have adverse effects on your body. However, their different legal status’ means that tobacco is a highly taxed legal product that contributes a significant amount of revenue to HM Treasury, whereas cocaine users and suppliers get the cuffs. We started this international prohibition – along with the Yanks and the French – and we did what we did best: “It’s our way or the highway.” Substances where we had an economic interest (think alcohol and tobacco), sure, they can stay, but ‘foreign’ drugs (your opiates, coca, and hashish) – outlawed! Imagine if China and India were as powerful then as they are today – our drugs ‘menu’ may have looked very different…

My mum hates talking to me about why drugs are illegal. I think it reminds her of when she used to talk to me about Christianity once I had gotten to that age where I had read enough books and established my own thoughts that I was able to deconstruct it as fiction (don’t get me wrong – I’d love to believe in a God). The same thing happens with drugs. My mum’s general view is “drugs are bad…because they’re illegal…because the government says so.” It only takes a couple of back and forths for her to be a bit stumped. But, to be fair, my Mum isn’t alone. Lots of people take this view – and the view becomes further engrained as a result of right wing media. Drugs are married up with the image of the addict living in impoverished conditions, a burden on the welfare state. Only recently has the media picked up on quite how recreational – and downright normal – drug use is. I went to the Prince of Wales in Brixton last weekend and it seemed the whole of Notts Uni 3rd year turned up on the terrace. You looked around thinking, “You’re a lawyer… you’re an investment banker… you’re working at a top ad agency” – all absolutely on it. It was so pervasive that when one of my friends joined later he high-fived me on learning that, like him, I wasn’t on anything.

So we should all do copious amounts of drugs, right? They’re fantastic. Let’s live life like it’s fucking 1963 – wearing our tie-dye t-shirts whilst strolling through Haight-Ashbury. Well, no – there are downsides (obviously). Addiction. It’s not a myth, it is very real. It’s that invisible line that divides the recreational user down at Bussey Building on a Friday night, from the compulsive user, sat in their sleeping bag on the pavement by the entrance looking at you for 60p to deposit into their empty McDonald’s cup (you’re not sure if he’s looking at you or your mate as he’s taken so much crack he’s cross-eyed). The addict no longer controls his drug use – he is controlled by his drug. Tolerance builds up and larger and larger doses are required for the same effect, with the ultimate effect on the body spiralling out of control. For the staunchest prohibitionists – addiction is where all users will end up. This belief of the destructive effect of drugs on the body gives rise to cries for “something to be done!”. If individuals cannot control their drug use, authorities must step in to do so. This way of thinking is what informs drug policy in this country.

But I believe that the majority of drug problems arise from their prohibition, rather than the drugs themselves. Prohibition provides incentives for complex, organised crime networks, which in turn launder money and use violence – all those things we associate with the criminal underworld. Prohibition leads to corrupt government and law enforcement officials. It leads to the displacement of people and environmental damage to the land where they used to dwell. It leads to health problems within users due to unexpected strength, uncertain quality and unsanitary user equipment.

Yes, I’m for the legalisation of drugs (so’s my Dad – just don’t tell my Mum), but I’m not telling you to go out and use them. Matter of fact, if you wanted to use drugs, you probably already have. Their legalisation won’t change that.

Alcohol is a drug, Ecstacy is a drug. Take both in excess and you’ll be that guy that people look at and think: “he can’t handle his [x]”.

Written by Ell Leppard – very tall, great lid.

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THE SUBSTANCE

4639f10cf6d22f795ac20caa63594174As I watched a guy snort coke off a nightclub table top last week, I thought… well, I didn’t actually think anything to be honest. But that in itself made me realise that it just (rightly or wrongly) isn’t something that shocks or surprises me anymore.

I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m a Londoner or not, but drugs seem to have been a staple on the party scene since I first stepped off the tube and into the bright lights of Piccadilly.

During sixth form, Nu-Rave was at its peak. And it wasn’t just the 80s clothing that people were replicating, but the whole rave culture. If you’re not sure what I mean by this, 2005 – 2007 (for people of a certain age) pretty much consisted of pill-popping, endless bottles of Evian and a whole load of shit music that you wouldn’t dream of dancing to sober.

Then came university where, cliche or not, weed was pretty popular in halls and student houses. I’m sure you can picture the scene: a host of sweaty post-pubescents, surrounded by piles of pizza boxes behind a green haze. Then came graduation, and with that came jobs, money and easier access to the stronger stuff. Having never entered the heels and suit-jacket type of workplace myself, my knowledge is minimal, but I’ve heard countless stories of coke in the staffroom, sharing grams with the boss and week-long benders that started out innocently as a client lunch. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware that Class As are used in places outside of the banking district, but I think you can see why I’m using this as an example.

Sounds like fun, right?

It probably is, until the time comes for our generation to feel the effects of this hapless drug use on our bodies.

We look at pill heads from the eighties, now in their 40s and 50s, and you can see it. The hours of partying etched into their deep seated wrinkles, some still clinging onto shaved barnets with ink scrawled across their bodies with the 6am musings of a barely-conscious paralytic. And we’ll be no different. I know some really quite successful people who use on a daily basis, there are tons who dabble each weekend and very few who have never tried some sort of substance. The scary part about recreational drug use is that with all the new types available on the market, we just can’t be sure what the effects will be and what sort of long-term damage we might be faced with; we just have to sit tight and wait.

A good few of my friends, however, are already feeling the effects, with a slow demise into depression, anxiety and addiction and most of them are under 30. I’ve watched people I know go from being the life and soul to quivering wrecks, unable to even go to the shop for a pint of milk; these are intelligent, good looking people who are now shadows of their former selves. There are also people I know who have turned to it in times of desperation, as a way of blocking out reality and existing in what they deem to be ‘a place of peace’. You might think I’m exaggerating, and so be it. Maybe in twenty years from now, you’ll look around you and realise that those people you partied a little too hard with are now looking somewhat dishevelled. And then you might look in the mirror and realise that you’re one of them.

This post isn’t here to judge or point fingers and lots of people who dabble end up having only great memories to show for it, but my intention is to hopefully make you think about maybe giving your body a rest- for at least 1 weekend out of 52. It’s already trying to cope with the alcohol running through your veins, let alone the crap that you’re shoving up your nose as well.

A night out V your future? I’ll leave it to you to decide what’s more important.

To me, it’s obvious.

Have a good week.