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Between the Lines
Chapter 5    Typology (part 1)
The preceding chapters show that cocaine is an extraordinary drug. It is used by a surprising variety of people as far as age, sex, socio-economic backgrounds and present socio-economic positions are concerned. The qualitative analysis of the 110 in-depth interviews confirms this picture. People are attracted to cocaine for a wide variety of reasons. There are marked differences in modes and duration of use. Some users go on a heavy binge for three months and then stop suddenly, never to touch it again. Others use cocaine, with shorter or longer periods of abstinence, for more than ten years. Totally different reasons are given for increasing usage, decreasing usage or quitting, temporarily or permanently. Cocaine provides some users, for a time, with a way of distinguishing themselves from the common herd, but eventually loses its appeal and is subsequently only used occasionally as a luxury drug. For some users, their whole life appears to revolve around cocaine. They will go to extreme lengths to acquire it. For others it scarcely plays a role, and as soon as problems linked to cocaine occur, they quit using the drug. Cocaine can have different and diverse functions, even for one and the same user. On one occasion it might be an 'additional extra' at a party. On another it could be purely instrumental, to help someone to keep going through the night or get through a difficult meeting. Sometimes, it serves to help the user cope with, or suppress, problems.
However, this chapter does not deal with individual differences, but rather with types of users. In the following section, the analysis and the construction of the typology are discussed. The eight types which are distinguished are described extensively in the subsequent sections.
5.1    Analysis and construction
In chapter two it was already indicated that the qualitative analysis aimed at developing a typology involves several phases. The first phase entails reading the in-depth interviews thoroughly. Two or three striking characteristics are noted per respondent, for example a specific mode of use, an occupation or some other remarkable feature. This provides a first lead in getting to know the respondents, to be able to recognize them and tell them apart. The most relevant items also become apparent during this stage.
The second stage involves making profile sketches of the individual respondents. Attention is paid to biographical characteristics such as users' background, occupation, lifestyle, drug use prior to using cocaine, the initiation to cocaine, further development and duration of use, the most frequent setting for use, contacts (if any) with the law or agencies offering care and treatment. In addition, attention is paid to more implicit information which is inherent in various remarks, such as reasons for use, reasons for changes in the pattern of use, the role cocaine plays in the respondents' lives, the meaning they attach to use, opinions concerning the addictive nature of cocaine and their own dependence on the drug. In other words, this stage already incorporates a first interpretation of the empirical material. As such, the profile sketches are more than simply summaries of the in-depth interviews.
In the third phase, categories are formed by isolating striking and extreme respondents, together with other respondents who resemble them. In this way an initial tentative classification is created. Aspects of these categories which are similar or different are noted. This no longer refers to individual differences and similarities, but to similarities within and differences between categories (the step from individual to categorical level). Following this, the categories are once again compared with each other. It is noted which are similar and which not, and whether a common denominator can be discerned. This does not refer to simply recording and counting aspects, but to the connection between various aspects. By merging some categories and splitting others, new categories are formed which are more clearly distinguished from one another. The differences between categories are maximized. In this way, distinguishing criteria (dimensions) become more clearly visible. Internally, on the other hand, sufficient similarities have to remain to justify the use of the term 'category'. This is a process of trial and error. An example of a poorly-chosen dimension is 'instrumentality of use'. According to this dimension, poly-drug users who inject daily and use cocaine solely to pep themselves up fall into the same category as people who use the drug once a month to allow them to keep going during an intensive weekend. Cocaine has namely an instrumental character for both categories. Such a dimension in itself forms too rough a distinction and was rejected because there is no longer a maximum similarity within a single category. This third step of merging and splitting is repeated until the differences between categories are as large as possible and the similarities between categories as small as possible (the maximum-minimum comparative method) (1).
The procedure described above eventually provides eight types of cocaine users with distinct cocaine lifestyles (2). These types are: the Burgundian type; the experience type; the situational type; the distinctive type; the hedonist type; the routine type; the poly-drug type; and the cocainists. The criteria according to which these types are distinguished from one another are the place cocaine occupies in their lives (for example how much they are prepared to give up for cocaine) and the drug's influence on their lifestyle (for example whether using cocaine has affected things such as friendships, etcetera). In addition, types are distinguished on the basis of differences in reasons for use and functions of use. These distinguishing criteria can be brought together on two distinct but related general dimensions. The place and influence of cocaine can be classified under the dimension 'centrality of cocaine use in lifestyles'. Cocaine can have a peripheral, an intermediate or a central importance within lifestyles. Reasons for and functions of use can be classified under the dimension 'meaning of use'. This dimension is also divisible into three aspects. First of all, use can be characterized by subcultural aspects. That is to say, it is linked to and takes place within a specific subculture, for example an artists' scene within which users want to distinguish themselves from the common crowd. Secondly, use can be characterized by functional aspects; cocaine use has a clear function, for example to expand the world of experience. Thirdly, use can be characterized by occasional aspects. In this case, use is linked to certain, more or less specific, occasions such as Christmas and New Year's Eve. Each type is characterized by a specific combination of these two related dimensions.
The Burgundian type is typified by the subsidiary role played by cocaine in the user's life (peripheral importance) in combination with use that is mainly embedded in a subcultural setting of a lawabiding upper class (subcultural aspects). This type is distinguished on the latter dimension from the experience type and the situational type. The experience type combines a relatively low importance attached to cocaine with a pattern of use intended to enrich the world of experience (functional aspects). The situational type is typified by a combination of a secondary importance attached to cocaine and a pattern of use which is normally associated with specific occasions such as Christmas and New Year (occasional aspects).
A typical characteristic of the distinctive type is that cocaine plays a certain role in their lives (intermediate importance), and that use is connected to a specific subculture which strives to distance itself from the dominant norms and values (subcultural aspects). The hedonist type also attaches significance to cocaine (intermediate importance), but uses cocaine to help achieve more enjoyment (functional aspects). The routine type is distinguished by a combination of an intermediate importance attached to cocaine with a pattern of use which is connected with (less specific) occasions such as going out in the weekend (occasional aspects).
The poly-drug type is characterized by a combination of the extremely important and dominant role played by cocaine (central importance) with a pattern of use which is embedded in the hard drug scene (subcultural aspects). The cocainists combine a dominant role played by cocaine with use mainly related to problems (functional aspects). Occasional aspects do not form a distinguishing criterion within the categories for which cocaine has a central importance. The typology is schematically represented in the following diagram.
Diagram 5.1
Typology of users
Peripheral Intermediate Central
Burgundian Type Distinctive Type Poly-drug Type
Experience Type Hedonist Type Cocainists
Situational Type Routine Type
5.2    The burgundian type
The description of the Burgundian type is based on five respondents, one of them female. Their average age is 38 years which is high compared to other types. Cocaine plays only a minor role in the lifestyle of this type. It forms a part of a lifestyle which is, above all, luxurious. Enjoyment is important but it remains within certain bounds. Cocaine is seen as a luxury leisure item to be compared with an exclusive dinner or bottle of excellent wine. Use is often consciously kept within bounds to avoid that it loses its exclusive character. It is seen in the same light as champagne or caviar. This does not, however, imply that cocaine enjoys the same status or is accepted in the same way by other members of their circle. Their cocaine use is known only to a small group of close friends, most of whom take cocaine in a similar manner. It is not discussed openly in order not to endanger the social position of the user. The circuit of close friends (home circuit) plays a crucial role, both in obtaining and using cocaine. Discretion and trust are the key elements.
5.2.1    Socio-economic background and status
The respondents are mainly from what can be described as an upper middle class background. "My parents are middle class. My father was the head of a firm of architects and lectured at the Polytechnic. He had a hundred-and-one jobs. Since he was always working, he was hardly ever at home. My mother was the typical Dutch housewife." [016] "A typical upper middle class family." [041]. The fathers were architects, journalists, insurance experts, jobs with irregular, long hours. This meant they were rarely at home and the mother was left mainly to bring up the children. Their upbringing and former relationship with their parents are described as harmonious, apart form problems linked to growing up and increasing independence. "We talked everything through, very easy and relaxed. A very protective upbringing, only child, etc. But it was all o.k." [041] The respondents whose parents are still alive continue to have a good relationship with them.
Most of the respondents have a high level of education, university or polytechnic. It was taken for granted that they would study after completing secondary school. "School graduation, specialised in science subjects, and architecture. I've attended a lot of schools. That was taken for granted in my family. My parents were graduates and came from families where everyone studied." [100]. It should be noted that several respondents did not complete their studies. This was not through lack of ability but because their interests lay elsewhere or because they got a job before graduating. People who did this later followed courses or worked their way up in their jobs to attain their current position. "The offer of a job came along and I thought it would be easy to combine that with my studies. But that did not work out, my studies got left behind. I graduated in the long run, though, by following extra courses later on." [100] "After primary school, I specialised in science subjects at school. I then attended Art College, specialised in interior decoration and furniture design. I then went to the Technical University but for only two years, I didn't get on there. After that I spent a lot of time in other countries." [016].
Currently, virtually all the respondents are working in jobs with a high social status, such as automation expert and city architect. Two respondents run their own companies. The type of work they are doing means that they are often working more than 40 hours a week. "It's every extreme just at the moment, but I think I'm working something like 60 hours a week." [003] "Certainly 50 hours a week. These are fixed hours, I can keep control of that myself." [041] The type of job provides a regular income and the respondent is earning well. "Between five and ten thousand guilders ($ 2,500 - 5,000) a month." [100] "Three thousand ($1,500) net plus company car." [041]
All respondents live alone, two are owner-occupiers. All four male respondents are divorced. The female respondent is caring for her child. Due to the busy jobs, the respondents have little leisure time. They go out less than they used to. "You begin to notice your age. I used to be able to stay out all hours and just go to work the next day, but no longer. I can't do that nowadays. For the last three or four years, I haven't enjoyed going out in Rotterdam like I used to. It is partly to do with your age. We used to gather in a group of 20 or 30 people but that's largely disappeared. I go out less often, and when I do it's increasingly to visit friends at home." [100]. "I don't do much apart from studying and working. Just in the evening when I leave the drawing board. I go to a pub for a beer, or a disco. You need some physical exercise sometimes." [016] Social contacts are these days more within a circuit of close friends. A cosy evening at home or parties at friends' are the main opportunities for social contact.
5.2.2    Drug career
Pre-cocaine period
If alcohol is discounted, the first drug which all respondents came into contact with was cannabis. Some had experience of speed, LSD and (psycho active) mushrooms. These drugs, with the exception of hash, were always used sparingly and have never played a dominant role. At the first signs that they were causing a problem, the user stopped or decreased his dosage. "I was 16. It was the big rage at my school. I still smoke hash, but I'm one of the few." [100] "In the case of LSD, I stopped pretty quick when I saw things go badly wrong with a couple of my friends. I was careful then to modify my use. I have never taken much and it was very irregularly." [016]
Most of the respondents came into contact with cocaine at a later age, usually around 30. "I have to say that it was enjoyable ritual, something apart. It was just a pleasant atmosphere. I first took cocaine at a friend's house. What can I say about it? It was simply a friendly, cosy atmosphere. We were having a good evening together. I must say that cocaine serves to improve the level of conversation." [003] "I first took cocaine 13 years ago, when I was 32. That was just when cocaine was getting popular in the Netherlands. I enjoyed it, it was a nice period for me." [069] It is worth noting that four of the five respondents had their first contact with cocaine when they were staying in another country. "I started taking cocaine when I finished Art College. I was then in Milan." [016] "In 1980 I had a couple of trips to New York and, as far as I can recall it was there that I first heard about cocaine. It was all the rage there. I didn't take it then, I just watched and heard people talk about it."
Initiation takes place in surroundings which are usually familiar. This is often with good friends, at home or at a party. On these occasions, cocaine is freely available in large quantities. "Yes, I am well aware that one of the fellows there was simply a big-time dealer. I could see that from the amount of powdered sugar that was being dished out. There was a whole row of it stretched along the mantlepiece. It was an open invitation: help yourself!" [003] "I began with coke when I was in Turkey (...) I was visiting an old school friend and her partner. I started taking it at 'upper class' parties. It was simply laid out in lines at those parties, they really overdid it." [041]
The length of time people had been taking cocaine varies from 3 to 17 years. At the time of the interview, each respondent was using cocaine and no-one indicated that he intended to stop. Use is controlled and the amounts they use stay more or less at same level. "Sure, I've as a matter of course always been able to keep it in check. I am a sort of regular dose user." [003] "Just now I am using skunk and sometimes I drink a lot of wine. I use coke incidentally. That is often when its available somewhere in my circle of friends. Towards the end of supper, around 11 p.m., between the dessert and coffee, it appears on the table." [069] At times there is a small peak. This does not last long, however, and even in this period there is no question of excessive use. " I used to take very little. It was just circumstances really with friends and such like that increased my dosage. If one of the girls with you was a bit manic depressive or suchlike, you were easily tempted to join in with the rest. Not in the manic depressive bout but 'if you take a sniff, okay, I'll take one too'." [003] The frequency of use varies between once a month and once a week. Taken as a whole, the amounts used are small, less than half a gram, or at the very most one gram a month.
The main circuit in which cocaine is consumed is with close friends. "Parties and evenings out mostly. Parties at people's homes, yes, let's leave it at that. It used to be that you tanked up before leaving home taking a little along to get you through the night." [003] "At parties. At parties with close friends where the everyone likes cocaine it's used openly. At larger parties there is a certain discretion. We withdraw to another room, not secretly just discreetly. I don't openly smoke hash in public places, or take it at formal parties/receptions or in the office. Same sort of discretion." [100] The leisure (evening out) circuit also plays a role. But it has to be emphasized that here too cocaine is taken only with close friends, people you have known for some time. "I wouldn't be inclined to use it in a pub with people around that I don't know." [100] "The people with whom I use cocaine I've known a very long time and I see them on an evening out." [041] In addition to cocaine, only alcohol and hash are currently used. Other drugs such as speed, LSD and (psycho active) mushrooms are no longer used.
The most common way of taking cocaine is sniffing. "I find the sniffing ritual more enjoyable. (...) The only difference is that in sniffing you get that effect through your nose which gives you lack of sensation in your mouth and such like. Yes, I like that effect better." [003] "Sniffing, with mirrors and razor blade. A rolled up banknote. I found this less sickly than in America where they threw it up their noses with a teaspoon. I've never seen that here. (...) What I like about sniffing coke is the ritual you go through with a group of people. Just like passing the joint in the old days. I like that, it makes it a cosy happening." [100] Cocaine is also still sometimes smoked in the form of a coke-blow, rolled into a cigarette. "I have also smoked as well as snorted. If you smoke, the effect comes more slowly but it is more pleasant." [016] Basing, injecting and chasing the dragon are not employed by this type of user.
The effects which are described are, in fact, always positive. "The effect of sniffing: you feel bright, fresh. Yes, it brightens you up, that's a good description. It brings a sort of clarity, so to say. It gives you a shot of energy too, in a positive way. That's the way it works with me, at least. I don't know if that applies to everyone." [003] "I got to know it in America as champagne, a chic pep pill, and that's the way I still tend to use it (...) I always enjoyed coke at a party, but I've always found the cost and effect ratio ridiculous. I still find it so. The stuff is far too expensive in relationship to the pleasure you get out of it." [100]
Cocaine is usually obtained through the circuit of close friends. It is sold by friends or the user already has contact with a reliable dealer. "At the moment I have someone I can phone and he brings it around. I don't go chasing it any more myself." [003] "I have never ordered it myself, I can't stand dealers. I usually get it through R, an old friend, he's my contact. But I have to add that when I say I get coke via friends, I am certain that what I'll get is good coke. There's loads of rubbish on the market, some of it containing speed. I've always had the very good quality." [100] "I have had to go out and buy it but usually I am given it." [016] The market it is obtained from is clearly separated from the heroin market. "No, they were only into coke as far as I know. Coke and soft, actually. Other drugs came from quite a different source." [003]
5.2.3    The significance and function of cocaine
At the beginning, it is curiosity and the pressure to experiment which are the main reasons for taking cocaine. Later on it is mainly the social aspect, combined with the pepping up effect which are given as the main reasons. "I find it a pleasurable social means of stimulation. A social drug." [003] "It makes me very clear-headed, I feel wide awake. I sometimes think that taking it with other people creates a social link." [041] "The social factor in the first place and in the second, third or last functional use. The price-quality ratio for parties is not worth it, but as a pep pill it is worth it. You can keep going longer and you stay clear in your head. If I can manage to obtain a commission at a meeting, the price doesn't interest me. At parties I use much more. When I take it for functional use, I take only a little." [100] Consumption has a functional aspect for a few users. This is connected with their work and, just as in the above case, is of subordinate significance. "I have a pack as a pep pill in case I'm exhausted and still have to face a difficult meeting. In such a case, I take a very small amount - just enough to give me some energy." [100] "I have worked for several years like that in other countries. Completely irregular way of life. We worked liked crazy, had a lot of fun and every so often had a good sniff. It was part of the way we did things then. At the end of a commission you had to work day and night to get it finished. In such cases we sniffed at work as well. It was paid for jointly, the boss contributed too. That certainly happens in New York today still. I don't think it happens in the Netherlands. Things are different here. The work situation is not the same, working conditions are far better." [016]
The use of cocaine is essentially social in character and problems are not a reason to (begin to) use it. "I have never been a problem user. For me, it is really a social happening." [003] In periods with difficulties the respondents are more likely to cutback on the use of cocaine, taking it not at all or in very controlled amounts, rather than using it as an escape. "No I take it only if things are going well. If I'm feeling rotten I simply don't take it." [041] "At a certain moment I wanted to start to chat to a girl I already knew. I found I was unable to start a conversation with her. This was a shock and after that I didn't sniff or drink for a year." [016]
Cocaine plays a limited role in the lifestyle of this category of user. It is seen as a luxury with an exclusive character. "Once or twice a year we throw a big party, the menu is drawn up jointly. Each group of people makes one dish. And then coke is an essential component of this heavy meal. One way or another, coke has become the dessert. That's when it appears on the table. We sit there with ten of us or so and four of five feel like coke at a given moment. It's a varied group, from the art world and construction industry." [100] "I take coke on a relaxed evening with a few of friends. At the most six of us. Good food, with wine. And, just as I said, between the dessert and coffee with calvados the mirror is presented with a line of coke." [069] To keep its exclusive character, use is expressly restricted. "If you use it in small doses you enjoy it much more than if you use it from habit. Look, I find, for instance, Tequila a marvellous drink. It get a real kick out of it but, nevertheless, I can spend a whole evening in a pub without drinking any. Maybe I'll take one glass, even two but then that's it. If I were to make a habit of it, take a glass every evening, I wouldn't enjoy it in the same way. That's what I think." [003] Even if there's a plentiful supply of cocaine, this in itself is not a reason to increase consumption. This applies also to the respondent who was a dealer for a while. "I think that it was a good time for me also when I was a dealer. I learnt a lot and I think it is also because I use it in a more conscious way that I have been able to keep going so long." [003]
5.2.4    Problem aspects
Cocaine has scarcely any problem aspects for this group. Based on their own experience they do not see use of cocaine as addictive, at least not for themselves. "I am not mentally or physically dependent on it." [016] "In fact, everything is addictive. I know how to exercise control. Cocaine is not an addiction for me." [041] This group is aware of the negative effects and dangers, these are generally noted in others. "It seems that a lot of people just can't stop. Suppose they've got a gram in their pocket, they use up that gram. I find that simply negative. What I mean is; I can say after half a gram: 'That was good'. But lots of people can't say that. They just keep going till they've finished the lot. And furthermore, as far as negative effects are concerned, I see that some people absolutely need it in order to communicate, in fact." [003] "Not in my case. But I do know people who've been taking it for years and I do get a bit concerned about them. I said as much to a good friend of mine. He didn't like it. I believed that I could see a change of personality which I didn't care for. An example of this is a coolness of someone. They become more distant, emotions become cooler." [100] The consumption of cocaine presents no financial problems. This is not surprising looking at the income of the users in relationship to the amount they take. "I don't take much. No problem." [100]
Criminal activities occur very seldom, if at all, and all drugs are purchased from legally acquired income. Any lawbreaking which may occur, such as work on the side, is not related to cocaine use. None of the respondents has contact with the (drugs) assistance agencies. Their amount of consumption and their own experience with cocaine make such a contact irrelevant.
5.3    The experience type
The description of the experience type is based on six respondents, five men and one woman. Their average age is 27 years. Cocaine is of a limited significance for this type and is not a main activity. What they find important is to gain personal experience. They can assess the value of something only by trying it out themselves. It is in this context, that their use of cocaine must be considered. A range of drugs is tried out to see what effect they have. Cocaine is one of this range. Only after taking cocaine yourself, you are entitled to talk about it. In all phases of consumption, the positive and negative effects are weighed against each other. There is a sort of calculated use. In general, this means that use decreases or stops completely after a period of time, when it no longer provides a new experience and other things become more important. The experiment is rounded off and considered an enrichment of their experience of life.
5.3.1    Socio-economic background and status
The background of this category of users varies from working class to upper middle class. "My father was something or other in an insurance company. Quite a high position in the company." [080] "My father was a metal worker. My mother always had a job too." [084] The upbringing of the children was largely in the hands of the mothers, also with this category, even though some of them were working. Upbringing was seen as harmonious with the children enjoying a reasonable amount of freedom.
The education level of the respondents themselves is skilled vocational training or tertiary education. The school record of most of them is characterised by frequent changes of school and a number of unfinished courses. "I am really self-educated. I dropped out after four years secondary school. I did two years school of Social Work College but I didn't care for that either." [080] "I completed secondary school (non-university/college entrance level) taking a couple of easy subjects and then went to the College for Social Work, a degree course. Then I spent a long time refusing military service and doing alternative service. I then tried studying sociology for a year and a half, but it was too dull for me and I stopped." [084]
The social positions vary. Two respondents are currently following junior college courses, two have regular jobs and two are unemployed. In line with the different situations, incomes also vary considerably. "It goes up and down. I always get at least 3,000 guilders ($ 1,500) a month but lots of deductions are made." [084] "Bad. Social security, which varies. I have social security as a basic income and in addition I scrape bits and pieces together. That happens particularly in the summer months, you could say that from March to September I earn between 100 and 300 guilders ($50-150) per month. And that is just the little extra which enables me to once in a while do something." [017] The majority of the respondents live alone. Only one is married and has children. For the two student respondents, an evening out plays an important role. They are, furthermore, considerably younger, (20 and 21 years) than the others. As far as the other respondents are concerned, an evening out has become less of a priority. For one it is his job and for another his family which is gradually claiming more attention.
5.3.2    Drug career
Pre-cocaine period
In the period preceding cocaine consumption, curiosity and experiencing things yourself played an important role. Alcohol and cannabis were items with which these respondents had early contact. "In the pub I went looking for soft drugs on my own initiative. I just walked up to someone with the words 'I think you are on drugs, I want to try them too. Can you get me something?' Then we had a blow together. That was fun, a wonderful experience, great fun, I really enjoyed it. " [017] "My first experience was when I was 14." [030] Other drugs too are tried, such as LSD, (psycho active) mushrooms and speed. "I tried LSD twice but I didn't care for it. It went wrong. There were seven of us and the boys had taken quite a lot, the girls hadn't. Then the three other boys had a row with the girls and that ended badly. I then consciously waited six months and in a very safe setting tried a quarter trip. It was very light and I liked it and I thought 'Now I've experienced that, it was very enjoyable, finito.'" [080] Even heroin appears not to be excluded from experimentation. Three of the six respondents have had experience of it. This was, however, a limited acquaintance. "I came into contact with smack. I purposely took it for a week. After that week I've never touched it again. I just wanted to know what it was like." [038] Whether the use of heroin preceded the use of cocaine or came after it depends largely on chance circumstances. It is part of the pressure to experiment with various drugs. This does not mean that these respondents try everything they come up against. For most of them there are certain limits. "In that period, I was offered all sorts of things, but I have always categorically refused to take speed. I had seen what it did to people. They get tremendously worked up and then have terrible withdrawal symptoms. I was 17 or 18 at the time. That was when psilocybin was all the rage. You don't see that these days either." [080] "What I know about smack is that you can get mentally hooked and as far as I was concerned you lowered yourself by taking smack. I didn't care for the effect of smack either. It is just a means of getting thoroughly stoned and I don't care for that too much." [030]
Four respondents were around 18 years old when they came into contact with cocaine. Two respondents were around twenty-five. "I then first used cocaine when I was 18 or 19. It was my first hard drug and it was a very strange experience, quite weird. Everything was extremely clear, I had already blowed and it was really great, that's how I felt it. It's the usual story of coke that everyone tells, I suppose. It's as if another world is opening up for you, the mist lifts and wow it's crazy! The sun shines brightly and everything is glistening, everything gets an attractive glow and all sorts of ideas shoot into your mind. I really liked that." [017] "At parties. I had a group of friends then and they had cocaine and I had to try it too. But it didn't have much effect at that time. That came only later. Later on I started taking more and I tried other drugs." [038] Before beginning with cocaine most respondents were well informed about cocaine and know what to expect. It is a necessary condition and in some cases they even carried out thorough preparations. This knowledge is not enough, however, they want to have the personal experience. "I had been offered hard drugs earlier but I didn't want to try. I didn't have enough personal knowledge about them then." [017] "Before I began with cocaine I prepared myself well. At least I was properly prepared. I had read everything about it. At the first line I knew what to do and not to do, what was not really damaging. Normal things which everybody asks themselves when they take something the first time. I knew very well what I was doing." [030]
The duration of use varies from four months to eight years. Consumption can sharply increase after the first introduction. It is a period in which a lot of experimentation takes place relating both to frequency as well as amounts. "Then a period of four days a week and then three weeks without. Not as earlier when it was a minimum of three times a week. Then it's just the weekend, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. And, if I could manage it, also later in the week." [001] "After the first time I remember that we often had access to cocaine. And that we took it every day. But it's often difficult to remember because it all takes place in a kind of haze. But what I can recall is that it must have lasted around eight weeks and that use was quite intensive with the accompanying symptoms of no longer being able to function properly." [084] The main circuit of use is the close friends circuit. An evening out also plays a role. "At home, we both found it rather chicken to do it on a toilet." [084]
As we have said above, various drugs were tried out and it was chance which determined whether cocaine is taken before or after other things. Experiments ranged from glue sniffing to XTC. "You go in search for other things, you get more curious. You move in a circle of people who are into drugs. You talk a lot about things such as LSD, trips, you name it, heroin, and then everybody wants to give it a go. XTC etc." [001] "When I was 20 or so, I started to really experiment and then I came into contact with smack. I knew plenty of people who were taking smack and I sat and watched them before I used smack myself. I went around with people who were into smack and I was often present when they used it. Then at a certain moment I said to myself 'now get going, you know enough, you know what to expect and now's the time to really try it out'. I then took smack some twenty or thirty times over a two year period." [017] After a period of experimentation the consumption of cocaine and other drugs decreases or ceases all together. Alcohol, hash and occasionally cocaine is the usual pattern when you look at the current drug consumption. "At a given moment I seriously wanted to stop, 9 months or so ago, a sort of 'boys, I don't care for it any more'. I began to find a bit of a pity, all that money, etc. It did cost me a lot of money, of course." [001] "A glass of beer and very occasionally coke. I don't blow any more." [041]
Sniffing is the most common form of use but other ways are tried out too. Experimentation plays an important role. "And then of course all sorts of things, coke, you can base it, you can chase the dragon. I did that for a while too (...) Usually I do it at home on a mirror, on a big mirror. If I go out I use a small mirror or I have to look for something with a smooth surface. Like in the car a cassette casing, it has to be a smooth casing. And then cut it up very fine. Make neat lines. And then with a tube, any kind - it doesn't matter - made of paper, a rolled up letter, anything, or if necessary just an empty pen casing." [001] "I have based a number of times. One time I had a real base bottle and afterwards I felt very restless, I began to sweat and said things like 'go way all of you, I want to go to bed'. It didn't have the effect I had wanted from drugs, what I had been looking for. The thing I wanted to achieve, I didn't get with it. Nor with chasing the dragon. That didn't feel good either." [030] The borderline for the various methods lies at injecting. None of the respondents had tried that.
They talk a lot about the effects. Sometimes it sounds like a scientific experiment and the effects are meticulously noted and analyzed. "We took it for a while and then we took a piece of paper. We wrote down the time and what we had taken, how long it had lasted. We then noted down when we took the next line and how long that lasted. We wrote it all down. That way you are really experimenting. Later on it turned out that you couldn't make heads or tails of it. One time you had a fantastic happy feeling after a couple of lines and another time you sniffed a quarter and you still felt nothing. Then you really feel fed up. You sit waiting for something to happen, you start forcing it." [030] "If you take cocaine it seems that you are just that bit cleverer. You feel clearer in your head and can better see through people. (...) It was macho. You felt braver. It gave you a feeling of superiority. I find that an awful word but what I felt was something like that. You got this cool feeling, just like 'I can do anything I want'." [041] Since consumption is very conscious and carefully controlled they are also able to clearly state the negative effects. "If you use a lot, the effect is not so pleasant. You get a bit depressed. What I mean is that in the beginning I really enjoyed it, great, but when the effect is no longer there you know that it's all finished, you know. At parties too, but there you just have to accept it 'Yes, it's come to an end', you know, and then you just feel not so good. You aren't sick or anything like that, just a bit depressed, you feel rather fed up." [001] "It was a pleasant anaesthetic feeling, really great. But the next morning I had to go to work as usual and it took me 2 hours to get going but that was also due to lack of sleep and alcohol intake. The usual withdrawal symptoms. You lose a lot of time in the hours after you wake up (...) I was also trembling a bit, cold and had trouble with concentration if I didn't take it." [084]
Cocaine is obtained through friends or from a private address where no heroin is sold. "The first time I got it from friends and later on I often bought a pack for a hundred guilders ($ 50) together with a mate. The dealer I usually got it from dealt in cocaine, hash and weed." [080] "It wasn't the case that I always bought it consciously myself. Yes, you're a girl and there are always fellows wanting to pick you up in this way. I didn't fall for that but did make use of his stuff. 'Oh, you've got coke, how interesting, let me try a bit'." [038] Heroin does not hold a fixed place in the arsenal of drugs used. Often people get that from friends, they have no need to search out a dealer who also sells heroin.
5.3.3    The significance and function of cocaine
Cocaine is more or less on the periphery of the lives of this category of user. It fits into a lifestyle in which trying everything out yourself is considered important. You try something because you want to know from your own experience exactly what it is and what it does. "I am always experimenting with drugs and then at a certain moment I stand back and take a look at what I'm doing. How do I see things now and how did I experience it and what do I now think of that experience, and so on. Like that, I have been very consciously experimenting with drugs. And yes, coke was at first the kick of the clarity, wow! It was real crazy, that's what makes it so sublime, it gives just that finishing touch to the experience you are going through, like. Yeah, and at a certain moment you just don't need it any longer, you're no longer interested in it. Then I just don't want it any more, I can do without it, if I'm feeling beat and want to stay awake, I take chewing gum and I can get myself into a trance of speed or whatever." [017] "I found it really interesting. I wanted to know what goes on with a whole lot of drugs. I've had a go with loads of them just to see what it's like. Really exciting. It was forbidden. And I was curious." [038]
During all the phases of use careful deliberations are made and these finally determine the role that cocaine plays. Two respondents have stopped completely and four are consuming cocaine occasionally. "I couldn't get my work done properly because I was at it the whole night and when you scramble into bed at 6 a.m. you don't get out again at 8. That was one of the reasons I stopped. It's great having your own business but you have to be there. You can't have people standing on the pavement at one o'clock waiting for you to open up. That happened once and I can't allow that. At a certain moment you get the feeling you are just driving yourself crazy. You begin late, you can only put that right by working through till midnight. Then you begin again on the coke. The next day you're late again and once more you are behind with everything. At a certain moment you can't get out of it any more." [080] If it begins to give problems, if it becomes a grind, or if someone's had enough, it is easy to stop. "It became a routine and I think that is why we stopped." [084] "Most people I know are coke users on the same level as me. They all take drugs in the same way. It is very typical because in fact most of my circle of friends and acquaintances are people I've known since the early Eighties, end of the Seventies, who also tried everything and have done all what God has forbidden and who have also come to this conclusion. They have all taken a step back like 'Well, I've seen it, I've had it, now I know.' Nowadays I take it when I feel like it, once in a while for a laugh, and taking smack is out of the question, taking speed is out of the question." [017]
Most respondents see the experiment as successful. In the same way the other things they tried out, it has been an enrichment of their experience. Now, at least, they know what they are talking about and this gives a feeling of superiority over people who have not had the same experience. "You can always ask yourself whether drugs influence your world of perception. Someone who has never taken anything can't imagine whether it could enrich his world or his development. If I think of my brother-in-law, for example, he hasn't a clue what goes on here around the Central Station. That sort of person can't imagine what it is like. My blowing and my short period of taking cocaine have certainly influenced my way of thinking." [084] " I think by using so many drugs I've gained a very rich world of experience of moods, or whatever. And you can, in one way or another, at a certain moment you feel a small spark of such a mood and then you can emphasize it or whatever and that's real chic. You don't need drugs any more, or whatever. Less, much less." [017] "I do have the feeling that I have seen more, that I have thought about more things. O.K. it's a closed area for me, I know that now. Now I've got the feeling of: 'I know it all, already'. Life can just go on its old course again." [030] "I haven't really changed, but you now know things. Like on TV. People talk about drugs but they don't really know what they are talking about. I'm an experience richer." [038]
5.3.4    Problem aspects
Despite the various negative effects which are indicated, none of the respondents consider themselves to be addicted. Each of them was consciously in control of their cocaine consumption and as soon as negative effects predominate they cut back or stop completely. "You can guess the sort of feeling it gives. But on the other hand I have to say that you do have to look out. Because you can really get into it and at a certain moment you lose yourself for a time in it. You have to exercise care and be able to relativise a bit. Everything has its positive and negative sides and I believe that you can always look at something from two sides." [030]
From a physical point of view, there were not many problems. People keep a careful watch and decrease consumption as soon as it looks as though it is getting out of hand. "A negative effect is my lungs. Not only with basing. At a certain moment if you sniff a lot you get trouble with your lungs. Yes, you run the risk of catching a cold and that you get a chronic cold which last a week and a half while normally you are never sick. It's purely an anti-reaction of your body. And that breaks down your resistance enormously. And the worse the quality of coke the more difficult it dissolves. But that's the case with all drugs." [017]
None of the users has got into financial problems although some of them do find, now that its over, that it was rather a waste of money. "In the morning I get a sort of financial gripe, purely from the fact that I wasted so much money. That it just slipped through my fingers while there's all sorts of other things I could have done with that money. I never got into difficulties or ran up big debts." [030] Criminal behaviour occurs rarely and never in relationship to cocaine use. "Never, not even to pay for coke. I did think about it sometimes: 'gosh, if you did that now, you'd have easy money'. But that's not my style. I wouldn't have moral qualms, it's not that. But no, I don't care for it." [030] None of the respondents has had contact with the (drug) assistance agencies.
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Table of Contents
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
Appendix A    Glossary
Appendix B    Occupation classification
Appendix C    Patterns of use
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