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Between the Lines
Chapter 3    General impressions (part 3)
One of the myths linked to cocaine is the idea that it works as a sexual stimulant. Cocaine is considered to be an aphrodisiac and part of the popularity of the drug is due to this (Macdonald et al. 1988). In general, the respondents are aware of the stories about the sexually stimulating effect. A number of them state that they have had such experiences themselves. "I have also had experience with sex and coke. It is really lively, you could say. Yes, without it it's good too of course." [064] "Coke and sex go together really well." [094] Some even go so far as to see cocaine as a substitute for sex, if less satisfying. "I've sometimes compared it to getting a climax. It's just as nice as getting a climax in fact, only then negative. Look, if you get a climax then you feel a whole lot with it, know what I mean, then you are like a flower you open so far, but with coke you are really boom! You are completely alone and you feel nothing else, absolutely nothing, that's the feeling I had." [002] Usually, however, it is seen as an additional element not as a replacement. "You have people who are then so sad that they say when they've taken drugs 'that was better than sex'. I don't agree. It can at best crick up your sex, but it can never be better." [064]
The effects which people mention differ. Men talk, in particular, about the ability to keep going longer, a greater excitement and delayed release of sperm. "Sex that was really good when you'd had a snort. That was the one thing I liked about cocaine. I was not more sensitive, I'm already a sensitive person. More intense and longer. Then I really got passionate. Then you can keep going much longer. My partner was sniffing too so he had precisely the same feeling. Then the two of you have to take it. You can't have the one snorting and the other not and then make love, because then you don't get that effect at all, in my opinion. You both have to do it." [039] "If I'd had a good snort it takes a lot longer before I get my climax and if I did climax it was much greater. And then more climaxes." [094] For women in addition to being able to keep going longer, the effect of greater sensitivity plays a role. "It gives a sort of glow. I just like it, especially with petting. Nice with petting, it gives more excitement. It's as if you are more sensitive. I like that very much, I would like to keep it that way." [097] As an aphrodisiac, cocaine has a rather unpredictable character in the sense that the effects described above do not always occur. "I have had it that I could make love with it really well, but I didn't find it always really good. But no, not really special. It delays the sperm release a little. Sometimes it doesn't take place at all. It represses terribly. It arouses a bit of euphoria, both coke and speed, but you notice later, when the effect is over, that it's all very artificial. That's a sort of let down." [025] "Sex and coke, I don't know. Sometimes it arouses your desire. Sometimes it doesn't, but rather of 'leave me in peace'." [109]
Any sexually stimulating effect which is felt is clearly linked to the manner in which the drug is taken. Stimulation is reported mainly by respondents who are sniffing. Those who prefer basing, report a stimulating sexual effect only occasionally. This effect is never mentioned by people who are injecting or chasing the dragon. Even the clearly sexually linked methods, such as rubbing cocaine on the genitals, have few effects worth mentioning. "Yes, I thought I'd try rubbing coke on my prick for once, perhaps that's good. But no the effect wasn't what I'd expected. Saying the sixteen times table backwards has more effect than putting coke on your prick." [078] This method is, in fact, seldom used by the respondents. It is more often a story people have heard than anything based on their own experience. "You hear those sorts of stories more often that you can spread it on your penis and all that sort of thing. That can be really strong, so I've heard. Insofar that you have difficulties getting a climax, but I don't feel that, look I'm just very intense, your feelings are very intense of course, that's true." [003]
Nearly all respondents who mention the sexually stimulating effect of cocaine say that they feel this only in the initial period of taking the drug. "At the beginning sex was much better, later on not so." [061] "Yes in the beginning when you'd had a good coke or when you didn't take too much, then it was really strong, it was good, your sex life went a lot better, but now it's more of 'keep away from me', a bit of paranoia afterwards. I think that this depends on the amounts and on the quality of the cocaine." [034] After some time the effect decreases and works to the contrary, particularly if the amount of cocaine increases. Physical problems can play a role and impotence is mentioned as one of the negative side-effects of taking cocaine for a longer period. "Naturally, it gives physical problems too. I am always a bit afraid that it is an attack on your organs. I know you get impotent to some extent from it. Looking back now, it has had negative effects. I think that my virility is now less. Not that it has a restraining effect or that you feel less desire, but it does take more effort. And I realise that it has something to do with my system. It is so that if you have sniffed that it is better at that moment but if you have sniffed a whole evening then you can't do anything. Same as with alcohol." [050] "You are impotent at a certain moment from using cocaine. At first you are very virile but at a certain moment it has the opposite effect. And if you are then lying in bed and that thing won't get stiff, then you get made fun of and then you get really cheesed off. And then it all gets even worse." [007] It is probable that the increased alcohol consumption which often accompanies cocaine use plays a role in this. This is stated by a number of the respondents, too. "That is also the disadvantage of coke, if you take coke you also drink a lot at the same time. In my case I don't like the taste of beer any longer so I started on whisky and the like. Then that's naturally no good for your virility." [004] The mixing of cocaine with amphetamines, particularly speed, can also be responsible for this. The respondents with experience of speed state, namely, that this drug can in no way be considered as an aphrodisiac. "Taking coke doesn't stimulate my libido. That is probably because I use speed. See, with speed you can do crazy things but it's 'No Buddy. We'll do that tomorrow, you're asking too much of Joey." [078] "Coke has a stimulating effect you can keep going longer. I know that if you take speed you need ten girls around to get it up. Otherwise it just doesn't work." [015]
In cases of compulsive use, the cocaine has a purely negative effect. This is particularly so if other drugs, such as heroin, are being taken as well. Sexual feelings hardly play a role any more. Getting hold of cocaine (and where relevant heroin) is the dominating activity. "I am now so addicted that sex no longer interests me and going out for a drink doesn't interest me either." [107] "You have people who do it once or in fact just for the kick, sexually. But for me it's simply that I am addicted." [027] "But I had that always when I was on coke that I had no attention for anything else, only for the coke. I was living absolutely for taking coke. And in the period that I took it I didn't have much sexual contact with my wife." [029]
Hardly any respondent says that he takes cocaine because of its effect as a sexual stimulant. The phenomenon of cocaine in exchange for sex, excluding cases of prostitution, does not occur among the respondents (Morningstar and Chitwood 1987). Even the respondents who are professionally engaged in sex do not give the sexual stimulation provided by cocaine as a reason for taking it. The instrumental use has more to do with being less inhibited and have more stamina. "You've got more nerve." [006] One respondent who had worked for an escort service reported: "I think I was never sober when I went there, otherwise you could never get yourself to do it, naturally. I have done it in all six or seven times according to the conditions of the contract and I think that five of those times I was quite tipsy before I even began to think I could manage to do it." [035] "But I did have to do something for it, my partner wanted me to really work for it. In the sexclub that was 24 hours a day. You can only do that if you have your nose continually in the powder. I have also been street walking evening after evening. I can't do that anymore now, but I see girls here sometimes who are three days continuously working on the street." [101]
From what we have described above it is clear that there is no single effect which can be attributed to cocaine in relation to feelings of sexual desire. The stimulation of sexual feelings and increased sexual achievement are, in most cases, stories that the respondents have heard from others and are not based on their own experience. In cases where such an effect has been felt, it is an effect which certainly should not be exaggerated. "Now that's one of the things that I think is all a yarn. Same thing with XTC. They say: 'If you take that pill you'll won't be able to keep up with your prick'. Well, I took one of those pills once, it was a disappointment. Same with coke, you are more active from it. Also sexually but it's not that you can take on the whole world. I didn't feel that, at least. You are generally more active, also as far as that is concerned of course." [076] "Taking cocaine arouses very strong sexual feelings. You are really randy, in your head. But physically it doesn't work. If I go to the street girls, I am not always under the influence of coke. You feel it the next day still, the desire is still there and then there's nothing wrong." [062] Some respondents report that they feel only negative effects. "If you take coke you can't do it. Its flabby instead of stiff. You are weakened. Same with everyone. Only with XTC does it work. Not with coke and speed, that's a load of rubbish." [089] In general, it may be said that the sexually stimulating effect occurs predominantly in the initial phase of cocaine use if only small amounts are sniffed. Cocaine is certainly not an infallible aphrodisiac and it is not to be recommended as such. XTC appears to be a more effective drug as far as that is concerned.
   
3.10    Cocaine and XTC
Within the survey group of 110 respondents, there are hardly any who take only cocaine. Alcohol is also taken in varying amounts and nearly all the respondents have had experience with cannabis. Consumption of other drugs such as speed, mushrooms and XTC is not uncommon either. Currently, XTC (or Ecstasy) is a drug which attracts a lot of interest. The media have focused attention on this phenomena regularly. Recent attention has, however, been mainly negative. While this drug is apparently becoming more popular all the time, the quality of what is being sold on the market as XTC is being questioned (De Loor 1989, Fromberg 1991, Korf et al. 1991). In the Netherlands, XTC was launched on the market around 1985 (Tinnemans 1986). The first reports were mainly positive and people were talking about the 'love drug'. It was described as a harmless love pill which had virtually no side-effects. It was said to be non-addictive and to give a feeling of love and bliss. The increased use of XTC is attributed to the emergence of 'house parties' and the two phenomena are often coupled together. We note a gradual decrease in the positive reports. Questions are raised, in particular, about the quality of what is now being sold as XTC. Placing it on List 1 of the Opium Law has driven the drug into the illegal circuit. It is presumed that people from the 'amphetamine circuit' have entered the market and that this has resulted in a deterioration of quality. The suspicion is that it has been laced with speed and LSD. In addition, pills are being marketed under the name of XTC which have no relation to the drug. These may be aspirin, yeast tablets, heart pills and amateur concoctions known as 'designer drugs'. Even apart from the quality of such pills, very little is known about their effect, particularly over the longer term. There are a lot of questions and suppositions about the drug, for example that it makes it easier for young people to progress to other drugs such as heroin and cocaine. XTC is not considered a genuine hard drug and has a less negative connotation than cocaine. It probably falls into the category between the more or less acceptable soft drugs and the heavier drugs such as cocaine and heroin. In this sense, XTC is seen as a 'stepping stone'. Another opinion is that it is the drug which will replace cocaine. In contrast to the businesslike approach of the Eighties where cocaine fitted in nicely, XTC is seen as a link to the flower-power years of the Sixties. In other words: cocaine is out and XTC is in. Due to the specific relationship between XTC and cocaine, we have focused our attention on XTC use within the survey group.
Opportunity structure and initiation
While all the respondents were aware of the existence of XTC, knowledge about the drug is limited. "I've heard and read about it, but I knew very little about it really. I knew it was an intoxicating drug and that your ears didn't drop off and you got no sleep any more. That sort of thing, nothing else." [109] More than one third of the respondents (43 of the 110) have had experience of taking XTC. A number of them, however, took it only once. According to the stories related, there is a great lack of clear information among users. At the moment there is a large supply of various pills and capsules on the market. "Two or three years ago, something like that, you still had good pills. Ordinary 'white', they were called 'Stannish'. They were just good white pills. They were sold for around 25 guilders ($ 12.50) and you got nice and high on them. That was the real pure XTC according to me and what is sold in the last year as XTC, so many strange speckled thick brown, thin brown, capsules, all sorts of stuff. Purple pills, pink pills." [001] "There are different kinds of XTC, you have speckled, you have liquorice, capsules. I don't take capsules any more, because they mix a lot of speed in it. You get really high from it. The pink ones are a lot more expensive. The American ones, they cost 50 to 60 guilders ($ 25-30), those are the real good ones. The one is a bit more speedy, the other has more a trip effect. The one lasts longer than the other." [064] The enormous variety of what is on offer means that users have difficulty knowing what they are getting and one of the problems is that the quality cannot be tested. The effects are known only after you have taken it. Many respondents mention this as a disadvantage and admit that the only way to know what you have bought is to try it out. "You got a bit high from it, but in the one there was perhaps too much speed. Another one makes you stoned and from a third sort you get sick. One can make you sick for three days and from another you feel nothing at all. It is always a question of 'wait and see'. In the last couple of months some better pills have appeared, small white and thicker brown." [001] The respondents who have had more experience all agree that the quality has deteriorated considerably over time. For a number of them this is the reason they no longer take it. The majority, however, continues to take XTC in spite of the fact that they do not know what they are taking and do not know anything about the risks involved or effect it might have.
The respondents give various reasons for starting with XTC. It is often a combination of tension, curiosity and availability. XTC appears to have a more positive image than cocaine. It is not considered a genuine hard drug and it is talked about more easily. During the fieldwork, a number of 'pure' XTC users were encountered who said that they wanted nothing to do with cocaine and heroin because these are hard drugs. It is impossible to say whether this positive image makes it easier for the user to transfer to cocaine. Only three respondents had taken XTC before starting on cocaine. From their evidence there is nothing to suggest that the fact they were taking XTC made it easier to begin with cocaine. The other respondents all had experiences with other drugs, including cocaine, before they started taking XTC.
Effects
Considering the differences described above it is not surprising that the respondents state different effects and at times have difficulty describing these. Virtually every respondent gives a different story but there are similarities concerning feelings of bliss, love towards fellow beings, increased vitality and the desire to dance. "Take a fifth trip, a bit of speed and coke combined, you have to mix them together, and then the 'house-beat' music and you feel fantastic. That's the real atmosphere. Everything intertwined, a bit tripping. Yes, it is difficult to describe. You really have to experience it to know what it is like. It's similar to coke, but then eight hours longer. A bit of tripping with it and enormous sweating. You also get visual hallucinations with it sometimes. Then you can't see the faces of people any more. The music is also a condition with it, the house too. Just like trips with the Doors." [064] "I want to say that you get high each time just a bit different. Then you feel really happy. It's all very gooey, like 'love, peace and happiness'. The one time you are dancing the other time it is less intense. Okay, you feel happier, that sort of thing. Sometimes you don't notice anything. With good quality XTC I am just very warm, very happy inside of me. You are very kind and nice to people and want to talk very openly. You have a great urge to dance, constantly dance." [001] "That's what I found really nice, extremely good. You land in an ecstasy, everything is beautiful, the people, the lights. I also wanted to touch everything. It was very material. With other drugs you leave your body, with XTC you don't." [021] XTC is appropriately called the love-drug according to some respondents. It makes everyone friendly, loving and it fosters sexual stimulation. It is more effective as an aphrodisiac than cocaine (see section 3.9). "They get real horny also from those things. The boys who hang around there too, they run around the whole day with their tongues hanging out. The girls dressed in those suits usually come in alone, with just in a bra, you know what I mean. So they all are getting each other randy, getting excited and the pills. So once you start on it, it's difficult to stop. So once you begin dancing, you keep on dancing. If you begin petting, you keep on petting, that's how it goes." [081] "Your feelings are stronger. As people say you get more randy, you need sex more, you can laugh, you can drink enormous amounts and your mind stays reasonably normal, it gets a bit speedy and then again a bit trippy." [031]
The effects people describe are not always positive. A number of respondents stop after one experience, sometimes because they feel nothing and find it a waste of money. It is worth noting that several respondents say that XTC takes possession of them, they lose their self control. This is experienced as very disturbing and negative. "Never again. It takes hold of your feelings, I rebelled against that, that resulted in a short circuit and then I had to subsequently submit. I can get outside coke, but not XTC. It takes possession of you." [082] "I lose all self control and that's the only thing I don't like about it. I want to be in control of myself. I got half a pill offered at a house party and the feeling I had to try it out for once. A sort of hallucination experience. I never took it again." [066]
Locations
XTC is linked to pubs, parties and dancing to a far greater degree than cocaine. Many respondents had their first experience of XTC at a house party. A striking feature is that in Rotterdam a number of house parties have been organized by people who were dissatisfied with the existing nightlife. Whenever people wanted to continue a party into the night hours they were always confronted with the same group, usually on hard drugs. This often resulted in a negative atmosphere. In order to avoid this, people created their own facilities in the form of parties (house parties) to which a select public was admitted. "I have taken XTC at house parties, it seemed to be made for them. A real pleasure pill. The only thing is you get so tired from it." [026] "XTC works only at a party, you need that powerful music. If you take it at home you don't feel anything." [023] "It's taken for granted that everyone is on it. Getting all toffed up for a house party, without taking a pill, is a bit ridiculous. If you have taken a pill you belong there. You look at the people around you from your own little world. And if you are lucky you get high too. And then you don't need other people any more." [030] "And then you have those laser beams and then they start dancing all psychedelically, you know. The hippy time again, instead of flowers and hash and things, they now have XTC and lasers. It's just the modern times." [081] According to some respondents the pill makes people friendly and tones down aggression. This is in contrast to cocaine which makes people 'cool' and insensitive. The atmosphere surrounding XTC is different to that of cocaine users. "I know fellows who can't stand each other, they are all dancing crazily with each other. Simply after taking the pill. Not a jot of aggression left in them. It just goes away. There are never any disturbances at house parties. No punch-ups, for that you have to go to a place where only coke is used. You have that every week in Z., always fights. Always pistols, bar stools, police. Only coke is taken there. They first take XTC and then prop themselves full of coke, then you are completely gone, your whole system is confused. At house parties never. If there's an argument there it's 'come on let's get a drink', that's the way it goes." [081].
Combination with other drugs
Although people say they take different drugs, only a few have taken XTC together with cocaine. Taking XTC at the same time as alcohol also has a less positive effect according to some respondents. "For XTC, I really think that you mustn't drink, mustn't blow, just take XTC and then you get really high. I've always had the idea that everything you take works only against it. I don't know if that's really so but that's the idea I have." [001] "Recently you are bombarded with XTC. I've taken a quarter of it a couple of times. But, no. Certainly in combination with coke it doesn't work. At least not for me. So I'm not that crazy about it." [072] Compared to cocaine, XTC is experienced in different ways. One person considers it a more pleasant drug than cocaine. "Coke, that varies according to the person taking it. The one is stimulated the other quiet. You feel good, it is simply a pleasant feeling. I think that XTC is a bit more intense. You see so many people walking around with, I mean they walk around with a completely happy face. I have had it often enough myself, people sit on the floor or lie down or jump about completely wild or go all wacky and you don't get that with coke. With coke you just stay your normal self." [001] "I've also taken XTC. It feels in fact better than coke. That depends very much on your personality. It's definitely mixed with speed. You don't get tired, you can drink vast amounts and you are tender. I don't get completely high from it. It isn't what it used to be. That's what I read in an interview with George Michael." [062] "It has quite a different effect to coke. XTC has more the effect that you feel it coming over you very slowly. It takes around three quarters of an hour before it really hits. You feel it all cold along your spine and then it suddenly hits your head. Completely spontaneously an artificial grin stretches over your lips and then it is wooooh! Then you know that you are beginning. That's what heaven is like, you think then." [030]
As far as the other respondents are concerned, some find it is more or less comparable to cocaine while for others it has a much stronger, 'harder' effect than cocaine and they prefer cocaine. "Coke is softer than speed and XTC. The effect of the pill goes after a while, that was a hateful feeling." [057] "Then I first started using speed and once in a while an XTC pill. Then I went further with coke. That's what I liked best. It's the most pleasant and the effect is that you are not so sluggish and finished afterwards." [055] Occasionally, XTC is seen as a cheap alternative to cocaine. "I think that they would all really like to be taking coke, but can't. For that you have to be stinking rich. You can't keep going the whole night on coke, you'd need a mountain of it to do that. And particularly not if you take your first helping at eight o'clock or so, at least that's how it is with me." [037]
Dealing
As we have said earlier, there is a wide variety of pills and capsules on the market which are sold under the name of XTC. The prices range from 30 to 50 guilders ($ 15-25) a pill. There is an overlap between dealing in cocaine and in XTC. Many cocaine dealers want nothing to do with heroin but the dividing line from XTC is less prominent. "My friends in the coffee shop, they sell only white and not even stuff. And pills I get there too. The speckled pills are strong. He makes them stronger and stronger. That fellow is a bit flipped, as far as he is concerned it can never be too strong. He makes them himself. Cut up powder and then he makes the tablets himself." [064] "My dealer only had XTC pills and coke." [026] In order to obtain some form of guarantee concerning quality, the user tries to obtain his supply from a known source which has proved reliable in the past. "XTC I always get from friends who sell it. Or you just get it at a party, and the like. If you are at a party where you don't know anyone then you can never be sure, but if you just buy it from friends and acquaintances who sell it you know more or less what it is." [001] "I get my coke from two different dealers. They sell only coke and XTC, nothing else. These are home addresses. They are friends of mine, from school too, so I know I can trust them." [055] Evidence that this does not always provide a watertight guarantee can be seen from the story of a dealer. "I have cheated loads of people, I'm telling you the truth, I have tried out all sorts of things. I have also had boys sitting here and I've ripped them off. You know it works and that's the kind of world it just is. And with XTC pills, I have also often sold them, but no XTC. Perhaps an aspirin or the like. I've often played that trick. There's a lot of trickery going on." [042]
Developments
The respondents agree that the use of XTC is increasing. They are less unanimous about the degree to which cocaine is being replaced by XTC. Some people believe this is the case. "According to me coke use is declining, they want it easier and hard all the time, that's XTC."[076] "A lot of people have simply transferred to XTC. Because it is easier, you take a pill, and that's all, the whole evening."[081] "According to me XTC is increasing. The yuppies are using it more and more and also at the house parties. XTC is getting increasingly popular. The rest is being pushed into the background." [22] Other people claim that the situation with XTC is not influencing the use of cocaine. In general there is the impression that the use of XTC is replacing the use of cocaine to some extent. This is remarkable since only one or two respondents have decreased their consumption of cocaine by switching to XTC.
To summarize, we can say that XTC has gained a place among the drugs which are used in Rotterdam. Cocaine users are familiar with it but it is not used to any great extent. While the amount of XTC taken is increasing, its quality is deteriorating, according to the respondents. There seems to be a lot of rubbish sold. The impression is that it is mixed with speed and LSD. It is not clear if XTC is replacing cocaine. This is certainly not so in the case of our respondents. Nor can it be said that they used XTC as the stepping stone to cocaine. The fact that they have used a number of different drugs makes it more likely for them to have tried out XTC too. Some respondents, however, say that they have enough with cocaine and have no need to try out another drug. "XTC is said to be the love-drug, but that's ridiculous of course. Love is the drug! That's better than taking something." [093]
3.11    Quality of cocaine
Most respondents state that the quality of cocaine varies. In general, they believe quality has deteriorated over the years. "Then, there was a quality which you never see today. Then, it was the sublime kick." [052] "It is incredibly expensive and the quality has really declined. Often. It used to put the lights on." [069] These opinions are generally based on the effect of cocaine after it has been taken. Purchasing is mainly a question of trust. There is no reliable test method available, although a number of the respondents try to test the taste and to look for its anaesthetizing effect (on the tongue or gums) to see if the cocaine is good quality. "You can also taste on your tongue if it starts to tingle and if you get the usual coke taste in your mouth, okay. But that doesn't necessarily mean much of course. I mean to say if you put washing powder on your tongue it will also tingle. It's more a question of it looking as if you know a lot about it." [001] "You put a bit on your teeth and a bit on your tongue to feel the anaesthetic effect. The more anaesthetizing it was the better the quality, was how I saw it. I always tried it first like that. Nine out of ten times it was good." [015] In general, this method is not considered very reliable and protects the buyer only from such things as pure sugar or Completa (powdered coffee milk). More subtle lacing of cocaine is not revealed in this way. Only the respondents who are dealing, or have dealed, are aware of the good methods of testing for quality. In their case, this is necessary since they are handling large quantities. "There are a number of methods. One is very simple: chlorine and water. You let a small amount fall through this and you can see from the developments in the fall of the coke, from the trail that comes behind it, whether it is good or bad coke. A second method is burning. Just put a bit on silver paper and see how quickly it burns and what is left over. Another way is: you have those tubes you can buy with colours, chemical stuff, you have to break one to get an idea of how much coke is in it. And then you break another tube open which contains a chemical then you can determine by the final colour result if you have average, good or very good quality in your hands." [003]
The respondents who base, chase the dragon or inject do get some insight into the quality since the cocaine has to be cooked. "If you cook it in ammonia or bicarbonate of soda and there are no remaining pieces, no rubbish, then it's almost pure. That is also because it isn't powder. It is a lump, a grain, a large grain of half a gram." [011] For most respondents, the only test method is to try out the cocaine.
Everyone is aware of the fact that fiddling goes on and that cocaine is laced with other substances. Estimates on the degree of purity are pure guesswork, as the respondents themselves admit, and range from 35 to 85 percent. "Recently it is improving again. You get a discount if you take a greater quantity. I now have good quality, around 85%. I find that quite good." [055] "I suspect that speed is mixed in with it. I once had 80% pure in my hands that came direct from Peru. What I see these days is around 35%." [021] According to the respondents, the most common method of lacing cocaine is mixing with speed. "If the coke you get isn't good, it's got speed in it. That makes you tense, from coke you are a bit more energetic but not so tense. It is obvious that coke is going to be laced with speed." [060] Mixing cocaine with speed produces a range of effects. People are worked up more quickly and are unable to sleep after taking it. In a survey of users in Amsterdam, speed was named as a substance mixed in with cocaine (Cohen 1989). Some of the negative effects linked to cocaine use are attributed to this. From the tests made, however, it appeared that the cocaine was reasonably pure and that there was no evidence of it being laced with speed. Cohen's survey dealt with a limited group of users, namely from the non-deviant subcultures. No laboratory tests have been carried out (yet) in the Rotterdam survey but, considering the great diversity of the research group, we may assume that considerable differences in the quality of cocaine do occur. Speed is not the only substance to be cited, moreover. "It's often laced with malytol, a baby laxative. I do this myself also because sometimes it is extremely strong. Real petrol fumes. With malytol you take the same amount but the effect is milder. But sometimes it is simply too strong, then you can't sniff it or you just burn your nose. But of course it is never pure. I know addresses where it is absolutely bad quality. It can happen that they give you half chalk and half cocaine." [024] "If you have a poor cocaine, then after the first 10, 15 minutes you lift up your nose and then you get a salty taste. Good coke works after ten minutes or so. What they put in that poor coke? Calcine, hash powder, washing powder, anything that is white." [094] People also mention, caffeine, lidocaine, aspirin, flour, washing powder, talcum powder, sugar, salt, calcium, powdered glass, powdered fluorescent light tube. Many negative consequences, such as no effect at all, a short-lived effect, frequent visits to the toilet, nosebleed, sleeplessness, agitation and heart complaints, are attributed to the lacing of cocaine with the above substances.
In spite of the poor quality on the market, most respondents state that they currently have access to good quality cocaine. "The quality has gone down over the years but if you know the right addresses you can still buy top quality." [090] "But I have to add that if I get coke, through friends, that I know I am guaranteed to have good coke. While there is a lot of rubbish on the market with a lot of speed mixed in it, I have always had the good stuff." [100] People prefer to buy from a good friend or regular dealer, for example from a private address, so that they can hold the person in question responsible for the quality. Buying cocaine on the street is avoided as much as possible. "You also have to look out where you buy it. Some people just fiddle with it. They scrape chalk off the wall. It varies tremendously. You must never buy it on the street. You really need to have a regular supplier." [052] This is no more than a limited guarantee. You never know precisely what you are getting. Many respondents admit to wondering about the quality of the cocaine they buy. One of them believes there should be a sort of official quality standard. "If you had a quality standard, in which for example the 'Netherlands Association of Housewives' put their stamp on it. Or the (Dutch equivalent of the) Food and Drugs Administration simply keep an eye on it: 'This substance contains more than 40% cocaine and 60% manithol'. That would stabilize people's use of it. You then know 'I have coke and this is the effect of coke'." [078]
Notes
1. In on-going analyses a distinction is often drawn between opiate users and non-opiate users, since they differ from each other on a number of characteristics. Opiate users take (have taken) heroin and methadone, regularly or not, while non-opiate users have never or hardly ever touched these drugs (and if they did, they used it only for a short period).
2. 47% of the respondents and 51% of the nominees fall within the age category 20 to 30 years. The average age of the Amsterdam respondents was over 30 years. The main age group was between 25 and 35 years.
3. The category 'inadequately described' includes, among others: school pupils, students, military conscripts, unemployed. This category also includes respondents whose work sector is known but not their specific job.
4. At least 57% of the Amsterdam respondents had tertiary education and only 5% lower technical secondary school. In Rotterdam these figures were 44% and 18% respectively.
5. 'Chasing the dragon' is a method in which a drug is served as follows: the drug is heated on silver paper and the fumes are inhaled with the aid of a (cardboard) tube.
6. The period of heaviest use is defined as the period in which the respondents takes cocaine most frequently and/or in the greatest amounts. This period is not tied to any specific duration. For some respondents it lasted one week, for others several years.
7. In reading figure 3.4 account must be taken of the fact that the respondent has not necessarily taken the total calculated in one month. In some cases the period of heaviest use was shorter than one month.
8. An addict is understood as: 1) a person who says he is addicted; 2) a person with physical, psychological, economic and social problems.
9. In this context a run is understood as continuous cocaine use during, for example, one or two days.
10. Among Cohen's Amsterdam users this is 36% of whom only a few have regularly used heroin (Cohen 1989).
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Table of Contents
Preface
Chapter 1    Introduction
Chapter 2    Methodology
Chapter 3    General impressions
Chapter 4    The main characteristics
Chapter 5    Typology
Chapter 6    Spread, dispersion and extent
Chapter 7    Conclusions and discussion
Summary
Literature
Appendix A    Glossary
Appendix B    Occupation classification
Appendix C    Patterns of use
 
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