Does it take a certain person to be attracted to drug culture? Firstly what is drug culture? Clubbing, raving, heading down the pub, smoking a cheeky ciggie or your morning coffee? When we look around it can seem we are flooded with different stimulants all offering us different moods or waves. But what about the culture of illegal drugs? How does that appeal or attract? How do we get into them? Or is it not as simple as that. Like so many things in life different people are attracted to different things at different times of their lives for different reasons.
I started taking illegal drugs when I was a fairly young teenager. Why? What appealed to me? Truth is I don’t know. I was rebellious, I was attracted to danger, trouble and bad boys. As is often the case with female addicts we often get into what we get into because of the men we associate with. Even now that I’m clean and sober I still struggle with the fact I am attracted to men who use. But not everyone is like me. I came from a nice middle class house and had to actively seek out trouble and drugs to find them which is not the case for everyone.
Many young people are raised next door to dealers or are children of users which can make their passage into drug culture a simple case of graduation. It can also make their experience and interpretations of it very different. Things often look more appealing from a distance and probably are less so when you know the stark realities of what lengths people go to when buying or selling on a regular basis. I once found myself in a dealers house who stored his cocaine in his family freezer; he had two kids upstairs who lived there with him. People living in this scenario may be more likely to fight to stay away from it and many are successful at this however many are not.
One of the most intelligent people I know is a drug dealer. He could have studied hard and lived a normal life by the general populations standards bypassing the drug culture that often he seems reluctant to be a part of but he didn’t so he does what he does. He’s of Afro-Caribbean heritage and was raised moving around various estates and houses immersed in drug culture making him a shoe-in for the stereotype he now contributes to.
After watching a documentary on channel four about the murder of Suhaib Mohammed a teenager who after coming over to Milton Keynes from Somalia with his family ‘fell in with the wrong crowd’, a crowd of drug dealing gangs which resulted in his getting shot I started to consider the idea of the manipulation of youth into this culture and how susceptible we all are at this age. The police spoke of a form of grooming, the seduction of youngsters into organised crime and drug culture and that there is a clear market for this. This interested me because I’ve never thought about it like that before. Grooming is something I always associated with peaedophiles or sexual predators but this type of social grooming must exist too. This young boy that was shot was not a drug addict but I bet he was lured in by guys sitting about smoking weed, acting hard, chatting shit. The two for me are very much linked as the one gets you interested and the next thing you know you’re doing something potentially dangerous or illegal without a thought.
So was I too a product of this drug culture grooming? I would always say that I made my own decisions leading me down the paths I followed but when the older boys I hung around with asked me to carry the drugs they were selling into night clubs I never questioned it or considered what I was potentially getting myself into. Or when we were pulled over by the police and I stashed the weed in my bra I never refused on the basis that I would be the one taken away. I wanted to be in the gang. I wanted to be valuable, of use, needed. I liked the notoriety of having a place, being the one that could provide something no one else could and being trusted enough to hold that position. This was clearly naive (and stupid) and for many it is not the case. I was never forced to do any of these things though, to be clear. But that is clearly not always the case, according to recent reports brutality is becoming normality for some children caught on the wrong side of the wrong gang.
So was what I experienced a form of grooming too? Was this naive, reluctant accomplice a necessary member of the group? Was I sought out intentionally or was it simply a case of right place right time? How would you ever know?
If you are young and impressionable (and we are all impressionable when we are young) and surrounded by people who are making money say, especially when you live in a family that can’t afford the latest this or that it makes sense that you would start looking into other ways of securing those things your friends have. Even with a job drug money is definitely more than minimum wage and can seem seductive to young people trying to stay on the straight and narrow who have people in their social circles doing just that. No wonder school gets a second glance if the adults you know sell drugs and it seems society is absolutely not on your side, which it can if you are from an under privileged background why not just drop out now and join up early?
But not all people get into drugs in their teens. Some might at uni or at their on the side club job. The clubbing scene is famous for turning middle class kids experimenting with a bit of ecstasy into full on ket heads. And what about after uni? London has been quoted as the cocaine capital of Europe with city firms and hospitality chains caining the lions share often just to stay awake at work. Having spent 18 years of my life working in the bar and restaurant trade I’ve seen my share of drug and alcohol use at work and that constant exposure definitely had an effect on my own habits.
But amongst the glorification of narcotics, heavy influences include 90’s films like Trainspotting, Human Traffic and Lock Stock there is another side. The War on Drugs started by Nixon and continued by Blair and Clinton. Politicians demonise a trade they ultimately control claiming that to come out with a heavy handed message, tons of stop and searches and heavy penalties for drug related offences will act as a deterrent to drug culture and drug related crime when it seems to have the opposite effect. If anything drug culture is spurred on by this notoriety with the desire to thrill growing within our society. And the irony being that that’s the point. The money men in control of this cash cow want nothing more than for it to continue.
Let’s look back to the 60’s where it all began; the hippy falling out of the V-dub camper, the symbol for the outsiders, a place for the revolution to go. Drugs became an opportunity, a way forward for those that chose to be different, to go against the popular flow, to be creative and free and yet is this not just another form of peer pressure?
Somewhere along the line drug use caught up with culture which is fine if you can take it or leave it but this gets complicated if you’re an addict. Culture after all is nothing but stories repeated so many times that we believe them and attach our identities to them. And drugs are state changers, mood enhancers, a way out of thoughts and moods and daily struggles. What we must remember however is that both these things are ultimately built on illusion and what goes up must go down.