I got painfully drunk on New Year’s Eve (mixing Campari, champagne and tequila shots the size of espresso mugs is a rarely a good move). I guess I must have been dancing a little too enthusiastically, because I was suddenly rushed into a bathroom by a friend. After screaming my face off for a solid minute – I didn’t realize he was neither a stranger nor trying to molest me – it occurred to me he had something else up his sleeve – literally. He neatly laid out two lines of coke on top of the toilet paper dispenser, pulled out of rolled-up post-it note and declared: “trust me, this will sober you up in a second” with rare confidence. Did I take the lines? Of course not, this article is going into print and I’m a serious journalist n’est-ce-pas?
I simply remember exiting the loo and noticing a line of people also coupled up in pairs, smiling back at me with a sense of shared secrecy, welcoming me into like a novel, secret community. Suddenly, I realized coke was everywhere that night. In my brother’s Kleenex, up my friend’s fake nail, all over the bar’s bank notes.
Call me naïve but ever since my teenage and early student years (where I stuffed my fair share of nonsense up my nostrils), I had simply ignored the omnipresence of drugs, and stopped noticing anyone taking anything. I always thought my friends were just enthusiastic to see me late at night in a club, were remarkably exited to dance to Beyonce or simply had too much coffee.
To me, coke had long gone out of style and been replace by a trail of other trendier drugs. I remember with certain awe when it first came into fashion in the early 2000, as a secret, rich-boy’s ritual to indicate success, not unlike flashing a Louis Vuitton logo. As with every drug (and more generally any way to get high), it always acts as a social mirror of its epoch. Its effect was in sync with its time: it made you cocky, hyperactive, flirty, never hungry – which was ideal for a culture synonymous to endless self branding, bling and Photoshopped perfection. “In a culture obsessed with celebrity, the fact that cocaine makes you feel rich and beautiful – it’s the perfect drug for our times” explains writer Dominic Streatfeild in his book ‘’Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography”. Coke also appeared at a time where ecstasy and raving were slowly being replaced by smaller elitists clubs where talking rather than frantic dancing was required.
I also remember when coke went out of fashion. It was roughly when recession hit, the kids were more broke than ever and the drug was as much as a week of work. At the same electro came and with it followed MDMA, which was to take the (nightlife) world by a storm. The powdered-up molecule that is also found in ecstasy was cheap, easy to share, and generated all night fun and passion wherever consumed – in other words, it soon became the house party drug. Cocaine in comparison was not dance-y enough, tricky to consume in a large public venue, too likely to get you kicked out, and tough to share. But did it disappear? Much to my disbelief it didn’t. You see, the press constantly tells you its consumption has gone down. While in 2006, 2.4 million Americans admitted having tried coke, in 2011, the number was down 1.4 million, stated the Miami Herald (one of the biggest coke capitals of the world).
Nevertheless, it hasn’t disappeared but has become so democratic it’s just part of the high, daily landscape to many. “Coke is the new weed” recently said the New York Times. Indeed, its stable prices, ability to be mixed with many other substances, and gentle coffeelike boost have turned into a common affair.
Amnesia, fearlessness perhaps? To Dr. Herbert Kleber, the director of the division of substance abuse at the New York State Psychiatric Institute in Manhattan, “the absence of cautionary tales leads to the assumption that coke is not as harmful as other substances such as heroin” (which was associated to the deaths of Kurt Cobain and River Phoenix, pushing many to stop). Some friends tell me taking coke is a much-needed mode of survival in today’s hysterical daily environment of endless self-mediatization. I think I’ll try yoga instead.