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Publication: The Face 2001

Something like a phenomenon: Cocaine Special Issue

‘Getting hold of coke is as easy as buying chips,’ said 24-year-old Steve from Brighton. Glaswegian Joannne, 21, last took coke after dinner on Saturday, and usually takes it three or four times a week. Compared to getting hold of cannabis or ecstasy, 27-year-old Andy from Newcastle said finding cocaine is ‘a piece of piss’.  ‘It’s just like having a beer,’ shrugged Simon, 25, in Bristol. ‘It’s no big deal.’

Everyone knows the British are a nation of caners. But in March 2001 THE FACE interviewed 1,000 teenagers and twentysomethings in ten cities across the UK about their cocaine use, and the results were astonishing. Forty-five per cent said they had taken cocaine. Forty three per cent consider cocaine less dangerous than ecstasy. When research places British teenagers at the top of the European league table for drug consumption, you could call this a phenomenon. You could call it a crisis. But you’d probably just call it another night out (or in).

Why cocaine, and why now? Britain’s appetite for coke has long been an open secret, but never before has it been so culturally pervasive. Blame the UK’s nine-year economic boom, or the drop in prices, but cocaine has followed the same downwardly-mobile trajectory as so many other commodites dear to our conmsumer culture.

Once it ws the drug of the rich, famous and fucked. But just like designer handbags, cocaine is a mirage of high-life cachet that’s no more exclusive to salons in Belgravia than it is to chain pubs in Basingstoke. You’re as likely to find the new classless drug of the masses in halls of residence in Manchester, or gyms in Leeds, as in the toilets of a members-only bar in London: anywhere with a a clean, flat surface.

Somewhere beneath this lies the perception that cocaine isn’t dangerous -  at least, softer and certainly less tawdry than its class-A companion heroin. The ‘celebrity’ drug – forever claiming penitent new ‘victims’ from among its fans – is as much a fixture of A-list London as Louis vuitton accessories. However, cocaine doesn’t have its own Whitehall sponsored awareness campaign or a methdone-like susbstitute to be taken when the casual thrill turns into a problem.

It’s an amusing fact that cocaine was solds as a tonic in chemists 100 years ago. Yet who is shocked that cocaine is being used in High Street pubs today? For a clear indication of cocaine’s descent into ordinariness, next time you’re in the toilets of a bar or club, run your hand across the top of the cistern. Now check the flecks of white dust in the palm of your hand. Like the converts and caners it has gathered around it, cocaine has never been here is such quantity. But if you’re not in the cubicle because you were answering the call of nature, chances are you already knew that.

Seven day in the life of the New Powder generation start here.

All content ©2004 Kevin Braddock

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