As it drops in price and becomes available at every social level, COCAINE has become Britain's drug of choice. But there's a fine line between coke cool

and chemical dependency.

COCAINEWHA‘I’ DOESTHAT WORD BRING TO mind'.’ Blank—eyed yuppies out of Bret lias‘ton lillis novels'.’ .\'oel (iallagher 'chained to the mirror and the ra/orblade”? ()r a toilet cubicle last weekend'.’

Surveys based upon customs sci/.- ures indicate that cocaine use in Britain has increased 750% in the last ten years. Its social status has changed since the days when Robin Williams noted that a coke habit was ‘(iod’s way of telling you you have too much money": no longer the exclusive preserve of the super-rich. it has filtered into every level of society.

The young people who grew up just saying no to heroin and cocaine the demon drugs of the 80s have now relaxed their attitude to coke. It never had the same scare—value as heroin. after all: if heroin lurked in grimy bedsits afflicting its users with festering abscesses. coke was the drug of well-attended boardrooms and well-appointed bathrooms. If the

24 THE LIST 16 Dec 1999—6 Jar. 2000

- Hannah McGill

glamour of heroin was seedy. coke

had a brighter glint of luxury: and if

heroin induced feelings of amniotic calm and introspection. coke sharpened confidence and promised to make tireless social butterflies of its users. Perhaps most importantly. though. heroin was cheap. while the higher price of coke lent it the kudos ofexclusivity.

In recent years. however. prices have dropped. Dealers who once charged £804.00 for a gram of coke

will now sell the same quantity for

closer to £50. Furthermore. they‘ll sell in smaller quantities. allowing casual users to buy half or quarter grams rather than investing in bulk. (‘oke might once have been a yuppie accessory. the calling card of the S0s‘ most conspicuous consumers: but then. so was the mobile phone.

So. what‘s the attraction'.’ A report by the American pharmaceutical company Parke-Davis. published in ISSS when the drug was still legal and


glamour of heroin was seedy, coke

had a


glint of luxury.

marketed as a health tonic. sunis up its powers thus: cocaine can ‘supply the place of food. make the coward brave. and the silent eloquent.'

ln technical terms. cocaine floods the brain with the neurotransmitter dopamine. which is normally associated with sex or the satisfaction of hunger. It increases adrenaline. which raises blood pressure and heart rate: acetylocholinc. which causes intiscle tremors; and serotonin. which stimulates sensations of pleasure and serenity. The result is a rush which. while not physically addictive. is habit-forming because the brain becomes accustomed to the easy stim— ulation of its pleasure centre. in tests. lab monkeys and rats given unlimited access to cocaine will keep dosing themselves until they die of exhaustion or heart failure.

(‘oke is linked with psychosis. cardiac problems. depression and Parkinson‘s Disease. lts snowy whiteness suggests purity. but the drug is invariably cut with substitutes like ephedrine. caffeine. PCP. manganese carbonate or talc. Then there's the permanent damage to the nasal membranes Stevie Nicks‘ habit left her with a hole the size of a ten pence piece in her septum. And as any reformed cokehead will testify. the User‘s personality suffers too; con- fidence bleeds into arrogance. and euphoric highs give way to violent mood swings.

As drug use expands. its cultural influence grows. Channel 4 is set to launch its new century with a season of programmes about cocaine. whilst druglit recently received another shot in the arm from Irvine \‘y'elsh's pub- lishers. Rebel Inc. with the publi— cation of a three-book package called The ('m'uinv Trilogy (.S'nmrbliml by Robert Sabbag. .S'mm' ('mr/my' by Mark Jacobs and Beam Me lfp, Scum" by Michael Quin/berg).

The tabloids might still froth about glamorisation; but as the 'war against drugs' loses ground. safety depends upon information. To quote Howard Marks. making an uncharacteristic amount of sense in the introduction to Rebel Inc's edition of Snmrb/im/ by Robert Sub/mg. film! say kmnr. . .’

Coked Up begins on Channel 4, Wed 5 Jan, 9pm.