Brian Boyd: HSE giving out the wrong line about cocaine

Safety campaign should tell middle classes moral truth about dangerous grubby drug

Cocaine usage in the country is now back to Celtic Tiger-era levels. Photograph: iStock

Cocaine usage in the country is now back to Celtic Tiger-era levels. Photograph: iStock

 

I’m sure the good people at the Health Service Executive were trying to be all mature and socially relevant about Ireland’s growing cocaine problem when they issued their “harm reduction” guidelines recently on how to make taking the drug safer. But they weren’t. Worse still, they were being flippantly irresponsible.

Cocaine usage in the country is now back to Celtic Tiger-era levels – a time when it was commonplace in Dublin night spots to see one of our wretched “media personalities” furiously rubbing their nose to indicate to everyone that they had just snorted something resembling cocaine – but was more likely a baking soda cocktail that would only give them diarrhoea.

To tackle this new reinfestation of the “VIP” drug, the HSE tells us that in order to reduce the risks posed by taking cocaine, users should avoid mixing it with alcohol. Which would lead you to wonder if anyone at the HSE has being out socially in Dublin – ever?

Cocaine has enough good PR without the HSE offering tutorials (particularly to first-time users – invariably youngsters) on how and when to take it

They also advise that we should always know the source of our cocaine when buying it. Do the people at the HSE actually know there’s a difference between buying a cup of hipster coffee and half a gram of cocaine? Why not ask the dealer if it’s Free Trade, organic cocaine while you’re at it?

They add that cocaine users should start with a small test dose and wait two hours before taking any more. Seriously? Having an allergic reaction to what passes as cocaine in Ireland would be the least of your worries here.

They also recommend that the powder should be ground up finely so that you won’t be snorting lumps. The HSE really should have their Netflix subscription cancelled.

If the HSE is genuinely interested in “harm reduction” when it comes to the use of cocaine, it could have simply pointed out that the drug is as unethical and immoral as they come. Between its provenance and its distribution, it is inextricably linked to death squads, the merciless exploitation of children and rapacious organised crime.

HSE’s Dr Eamon Keenan, Minister of State Catherine Byrne and Tony Duffin of Anna Liffey: If the HSE is genuinely interested in “harm reduction” when it comes to cocaine, it could have pointed out the drug is unethical and immoral.
HSE’s Dr Eamon Keenan, Minister of State Catherine Byrne and Tony Duffin of Anna Liffey: If the HSE is genuinely interested in “harm reduction” when it comes to cocaine, it could have pointed out the drug is unethical and immoral.

Celtic Tiger years

Cocaine has enough good PR without the HSE offering tutorials (particularly to first-time users – invariably youngsters) on how and when to take it.

An insidious link has been made between the drug and status/success – cocaine became, during the Celtic Tiger years, a signifier that not only had you made it but, rather pathetically, that you were also “edgy and exciting”. As edgy and exciting as taking a drug known – for good reason – as “middle-class Bostik” can ever make you.

There is no gainsaying cocaine’s meretricious attraction. Sigmund Freud spoke of the “exhilaration and lasting euphoria” he got from taking it and how it facilitated “more vitality and capacity for work”.

Naomi Campbell spoke of how “cocaine made me feel invincible, like I could conquer the world”; Stephen King how it “ just owned me body and soul. Once cocaine was there it was like the missing link – click! – like when you turn on lights.”

It is also one of the most effective appetite-suppressants available.

But it also a potentially fatal toxin, that runs riot with your brain chemistry, heart rate and respiratory system. Use of the drug is followed by a highly unpleasant “crash” sensation – as debilitating psychologically as it is physiologically. And financially.

Murderous journey

As Naomi Campbell and Stephen King learned the hard way: cocaine eats you from the inside out.

Recovering cocaine addict TV presenter Trinny Woodall put it best when she said of her habit: “I wanted to be cool. Instead I became a fake, lying, thieving cheat.”

Because cocaine usage in developed countries is, according to most reliable data, associated with the professional classes, it is mordantly amusing to find that those who profess to being environmentally and politically aware are so selfishly oblivious to the murderous journey the gram of cocaine at their summer BBQ has been on.

The only proven way to effectively reduce cocaine use among the demographic that consume it most is to educate them about the social, political and economic iniquities it reinforces and shame them out of their reckless stupidity.

Once, people would attract admiring looks and comments for wearing a fur coat; you run the risk of getting spat at in the face if you wear fur these days. Cocaine needs to be hurried along on that journey.

Having our Health Service Executive tell us how to grind our cocaine is like something out of Ali G. Grow up HSE and tell the truth about this grubby little drug.

Noel Whelan is on leave

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