Saturday, June 27, 2009

cocaine: heartless, soulless waste

The UK has just achieved an unattractive prominence: according to the Telegraph's Tom Whitehead, Great Britain is now the world's capital for cocaine use, says a UN report (which I haven't been able to locate on the organisation's byzantine site).

click to go the the Nottingham Trent University site detailing the award-winning program
Ironically, we've just seen the publication of a report by Nottingham Trent University, in conjunction with the Nottingham Crime and Disorder Partnership, which focussed on an aspect of occaine-use that's often overlooked: the marriage of cocaine and alcohol to form a substance called coca-ethylene, which is toxic to the heart and the liver.

heart and soul of the party?The research, I think, hits the nail on the head with its title - Heart and soul of the Party? Unfortunately, I think many of us will have had the displeasure of seeing somebody emerge from the WC at a party or in a pub far more cheerful than when they went in, talking twelve to the dozen and on the edge of starting fights because they have lost any conception of personal space.

The worst thing is - I heard again and again from users trying to recover when I was a drugs worker - it feels that one can drink the place half dry and not feel that one is drunk. Not feel is the operative phrase: co-ordination might be less affected than if one had not had cocaine, but judgement goes right out the window, leading to more consumption of alcohol/cocaine and impulsive behaviour like fighting, or sex that is often unsafe and may lead to an unwanted present being transmitted to one's partner. (And that's assuming that the sex is consensual.)

The reason I mention sex more than once is that cocaine affects the brain by piggybacking on the reward system in the midbrain that makes sex, for one thing, feel enjoyable. The desire to take cocaine very soon inserts itself, cuckoo-like, as a drive. That's why the damn thing's so addictive that the brain doesn't really settle down until after about six months of abstinence.

That's the reason I spit feathers when I read articles by liberal-minded journalists who chide society - whatever they think they mean by this - for criminalising black people who take crack (the smokeaFrancisco Santos Calderón, Vice-President of Columbiable form of the drug) while turning a blind eye to white people who use cocaine. (I speak as somebody who met one black crack user in many years in the job.) The reason for my reaction is that if we see the council estates raided, then shouldn't we see the same happen to the Stock Exchange and the bankers' parties (like the one which saw the birth of derivatives)?

I can't disagree with the vice-president of Colombia, Francisco Santos Calderón (left), that "Every user that snorts a gram of cocaine kills 4.4 square meters of rain forest"; so I wonder why Minora comes back from school reciting the relative prices Colombian farmers can make for cocaine and traditional crops.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary - click to go to the Force home-pageI think that Cambridgeshire Constabulary is going down the right road by squeezing pubs with a name for cocaine use with an amalgamation of new technology and old-fashioned policing. As Operation Ortolan, mounted some years ago, showed, big fish and small fish are relative: in the end, there are only fish, some bigger than others, most aspiring to become bigger than they are. The Force's drugs lead, Chief Inspector Gary Goose, said:
"The dealing of heroin and cocaine is an appalling trade. It destroys people's lives and can also make life a misery for those who become a victim of associated crime such as burglary, robbery and anti-social behaviour. We do not want our communities to suffer the effects of drug misuse and we will do all we can to make the city a safer place to live and work.
The lesson of all this can be found, I believe, in Genesis 3. I've heard users say many times that they wished they'd never tried cocaine: there's such a thing as forbidden fruit.

And well done to the Nottingham Trent University students who have worked with Nottingham Crime Disorder Partnership to bring out this timely report. You can read a summary of it at Drink and Drug News.


  1. My experience with cocaine user(s)seemed to be that the volatility and tendency to interpret others' intentions as offensive lasted much longer than the intoxication (is that the word?). Did you find that to be the case?

    We once had a gang of "8-ball" users living upstairs from us. We noticed their trash out for city collection consisted of no food packaging, only liquor bottles. That, and the sound of furniture crashing, men fighting, and other falling noises were alarming enough that we vacated the neighborhood we had actually liked pretty well, on about 2 weeks' notice.

  2. Yes, i found that to be the case, Pam. On one level, there's the "comedown" from the cocaine high, as for a couple of days afterwards the brain has run out of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine which play such a part in out positive emotions; on another, they could be playing the part of the "big man" that they feel when they're intoxicated, and/or be self-hating because they don't have the power to break their hold on the substance that makes them feel so powerful. None of which is to seek to excuse cocaine users, merely to understand them.

    I'm not familiar with the term eight-ball - the web says it's crack and heroin (which we call a snowball over here) - is that right? I can understand your move. In Glasgow I was a member of the management committe of my local housing association, in an area of high drug use. We were making some progress, but when I got a chance of a job down here, I had to think of my family first. It was a good move.

  3. I wondered what an eight-ball was. The cabbie who'd taken them to restock told me what they'd wanted - they were pretty free with the info, and the police were wholly indifferent.

  4. Our police used to be told to leave the "little fish" alone - even though, as you and I and lots of decent people can attest, they cause a whole lot of damage and misery. I remember a friend of mine who was a police sergeant in Glasgow expressing his frustration at having to watch drugs being dealt outside the station - in the Maryhill area of the city - and being told to keep "hands off". Thank God things are changing, over here at least. How are things over there, as regards drugs and policing?

  5. I was told they were cracking down in our neighborhood, but there were, apparently, some robberies across the street from us, at knifepoint, several times, and police took no interest, and that was not very long ago. My basic view is that it's useless to call them, unless it's a murder and you've already got the suspect. I witnessed what may have been a murder, and because the victim was carried off by her family (illegal immigrants, probably), and none of the fellows who were fighting the man who attacked her wanted to press charges, they were all held overnight and let go the next morning. Grr.

  6. That sounds really scary, because it sounds like the sort of situation we're going to face increasingly here.


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