Monday, June 11, 2007

On Addiction

So TR provided me with this article from the New York Times. He described it as "alarmist" and I can't help but agree. Melena Ryzik quotes a source, saying that cocaine is "definitely prevalent in clubs, bars, parties — everywhere, basically."

I'd like to point out that "clubs, bars, parties" are not "everywhere." Cocaine may be prevalent in the party scene, or, at the least, obvious in the party scene, but that doesn't mean it's "everywhere." Yeah, "everyone" knows that some bankers and other wall street types use cocaine, speed, or other drugs just to stay awake to do their jobs. But that doesn't mean that it is "everywhere."

And then the silliest comment, that "the visibility of cultural markers — and the absence of cautionary tales — leads to the assumption that coke is not as harmful, say, as heroin ." Really? I think that it is unlikely that anyone chose to do cocaine over heroin because it seemed less harmful. Maybe because cocaine doesn't have to be mainlined, or smoked, instead it can be genteelly snorted. Or maybe because cocaine has a reputation as a "designer drug."

So I've recently had a great deal more experience with addiction and addictive personalities than ever before. I've read Dry, Appetites: Why Women Want, and I have a friend who has an addictive personality. It has become clear to me that drugs are drugs. And that when it comes to drugs, and other addictive substances, it isn't always as clear cut as a choice. To say that people aren't aware that cocaine is dangerous, and that is why they choose it just seems patronizing. Coke isn't crack. The users are generally educated, affluent, and successful. They aren't stupid, and drug use is much more complicated then this article paints it. Thanks NYTimes for perpetuating stereotypes and misinformation.


michael said...

Maybe I'm biased, but to me, the assertion that coke is everywhere - which is true in certain circles (it certainly was everywhere in college) - isn't alarming at all, it's actually a testament to the insistence of pro-drug advocates that drug habits can be responsibly maintained, as opposed to the governmental/societal line that all drugs are dangerous and lead to addiction. All the party people, students and professionals snorting up all that fishscale have jobs, and relationships, and pay taxes, and, drug use aside, generally behave within the normative parameters of Western society. If they didn't, how could they even afford coke?

Now, about heroin and crack, I'm suspicious of people's assumptions that particular drugs are either more dangerous or more addictive (or both) than other drugs. Every drug works differently on every person at every time (the famous "set and setting" rule), which means that some people who shoot heroin LOVE IT, and some people could do without it, and every conceivable reaction in between. The idea that certain drugs are instantly addictive, or invariably inspire a certain type of behavior, is as much of an anti-drug canard as those classic accusations against marijuana, which is about as harmful as toenail clippings, from Reefer Madness.

Also, cocaine essentially is crack. Crack is to coke what meth is to speed - a cheaper, crystallized, smokable version of the same basic compound. The reason crack has a reputation is much more tied up in issues of race and class than it is in any major qualitative difference from its parent drug.

Annie said...

Michael- Sorry, let me make myself clearer. I agree with you on the comment that drug use is not as damaging as advertised, and can be done within reason. When I said that "coke isn't crack" I meant in terms of social issues associated with it.

It is generally accepted that crack heavily contributed to the decline of American cities in the early 80's-90's. Your last point that crack is tied up in race and class, is the one that I was trying to make. That people use coke (as opposed to another drug) because of the stigmas and reputations that each drug carry with them.

For the record, I am all for the decriminalization of marijuana.

Anonymous said...


While what you said is true (that "every drug works differently on every person at every time"), certain drugs tend to unlock people's addictive natures better than others. So, while I know marijuana addicts who drink alcohol responsibly, it remains the case that for most people, alcohol has the potential to be much more addictive and harmful than pot. According to these criteria, and in the service of linguistic expediency, we can say that alcohol is "worse" than pot.

Again, while crack is essentially just a smokeable form of powder cocaine, the high is shorter and much more intense -- a combination that makes crack much more addictive than powder cocaine.