PUBLISHED IN THE HERALD JANUARY 21
When did cocaine use become so socially acceptable? I’m genuinely asking, because I’m genuinely bewildered. At what point did we, in the western world and specifically Ireland, decide that this, of the “harder” illegal drugs out there, was okay for “regular people” to regularly consume?
It used to be that drink and fags were considered fine, ethically speaking, because they were sold by legitimate vendors. A puff of a joint or magic mushrooms were alright too, don’t get caught by your parents but no real harm done.
Meanwhile acid wasn’t easy to come by but I don’t recall it having the fierce social stigma surrounding illegal drugs, possibly because it was – still is – sometimes used in a therapeutic setting.
Cocaine, alongside the likes of heroin or speed, was seen as dirty, dangerous, scummy. Apart from the risks, short- and long-term, to health, finances and quality of life, coke was recognised as coming from some of the world’s worst people: narcotics traffickers.
Buying it was handing money to the criminals. Every twenty quid hoovered up your nose was twenty quid for these animals to purchase more guns and wreak more horror on their enemies, communities and countries.
And guess what? It still is. You’re literally two or three steps away from the psychopaths who chopped up a 17-year-old gang member and scattered his body parts around last week.
The gangs have no power, no anything, without money. By giving them your money, you’re handing them that power to bring down ruination and misery.
Not to mention that you’re indirectly – but not too indirectly – contributing to the absolute hellhole situations in the source countries of these drugs. Mexico, Colombia, Afghanistan: they’re essentially ungovernable because comparatively rich westerners hand over billions annually to cartels.
Yet cocaine is now A-OK with the cool people. Apparently use in Ireland has surpassed even the deranged Celtic Tiger era, and is seen across all social classes and locations. And age demographics: one report yesterday said kids are now sorting out coke for their Debs balls.
As I say, I find it absolutely amazing how this drug is now so acceptable. Apart from everything else – and there’s a lot of everything else, as documented above – there’s a rank hypocrisy.
The same people who’d look down their noses at the poor misfortunates hooked on heroin or crystal meth have no problem using cocaine. But is there any real difference between either choice?
Indeed, if anything, the world would probably be a safer place if people took heroin rather than coke. The former puts you into a drowsy stupor of bliss and indifference; the user is pacific, only a threat when they need money to buy more heroin. Cocaine, in sharp contrast, makes people obnoxious, abrasive, reckless and, in some cases, violent.
Yet one is anathema to all “right-thinking people”, whereas the other is just hunky-dory. I’ve been offered coke twice in my life, and was agog and speechless each time.
Once was at a house-party, late on in the night: it felt a bit surreal, to be honest, but at least this was that “let’s do something a bit wild” part of the evening. The other time was in a pub, having a few post-work pints – at half-six in the evening.
I remember thinking, “What the hell? Home & Away hasn’t even come on yet, and here’s some guy asking me if I want to do coke in the pub toilets.”
Could you imagine someone enquiring as to whether you’d like to come smoke some heroin at tea-time? Hey, let’s nip into the bathroom and do a little crack. Go on, it’ll be fun.
This mental disconnect is utterly mystifying, and it’s not the only one. Cocaine users seem incapable of drawing that line between the powder on their table and the murderous cabals who sold it to them.
It’s always bought off “a friend of a friend” or “a guy I know, he’s grand, he’s not a criminal, he just has access to it”. Yeah, he may not be a criminal – but the person he bought it off certainly is.
Maybe the next time they’re wringing their hands about gangland crime, they should ask themselves: what am I doing to enable all this horror? It really is that simple. No buyers means no money means no power for the gangsters.
People are pretty good nowadays for ethical consumerism: they’ll boycott companies with poor conditions for their workers, insist on Fair Trade coffee, demand more accountability and higher taxes for corporations. All well and good, very admirable.
They might think about also applying these principles to the underbelly of the capitalist structure. Narco-traffickers are corporations, just not legally recognised as such; and we, the consumers, have the wherewithal to hobble their reign of terror.
Personally, I think drugs should be decriminalised, as the only way to wrest power from the gangs; until that unlikely day, maybe consider just saying no.