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Between the Lines
Chapter 5    Typology (part 4)
5.8    The poly-drug type
The description of the poly-drug type is based on 33 respondents. Seven of them are women. The youngest is 20 and the oldest 45 years. The average age is 30 years. The typical feature of this type is that both opiates and cocaine play a central role in their lives. These respondents belong mainly in the subcultural setting of the hard drug scene. A number of them have already developed a drug-centred lifestyle relating to a shorter or longer career of heroin use. For others, it was only at a later state that heroin played a role. Within the compulsive poly-drug use, cocaine plays the prominent role. Cocaine is considered by many to be more invasive and addictive than heroin. Consumption of cocaine is characterised by a broad range of problems. Physical, financial and psychological problems are often cited. Criminal acts undertaken to ease financial problems are not excluded. This involves subsequent contact with the police and lawcourts. Most of this category of cocaine user have had considerable experience of the social services.
5.8.1    Socio-economic background and status
The social class background ranges from working class to upper middle class. The jobs of their fathers vary from truck driver to managing director. A number of them had a very harmonious upbringing with few problems. "I had a happy childhood, I had everything I wanted. My mother was always at home, she didn't have a job." [047] In other cases upbringing was characterised by problems. A background of being on the move with several respondents encountering foster families and children's homes. "I've been through all sorts of children's homes. I even spent two weeks in Brabant (the south of the Netherlands) in the woods with a survival kit, so that I could keep out of the hands of the juvenile court." [067] Schooling was a difficulty for nearly all the respondents. Only very few have completed a study or training. Some left school before the permitted age. "I was expelled from school when I was 14, after that I didn't go to school any more." [059] The level of education is junior or senior secondary vocational school level.
In so far as the respondents have ever had regular work, they had all sorts of different jobs of short duration. This was unskilled factory work, pub and cafe work or temp agency jobs. "In the harbour, 'Jack of all trades master of none'." [010] "After being ship's crew for six months I worked for labour contractors. But that was a week or two of work then no work for a while. Then I was on the street again for a week. Then they had work again and then you don't feel like it any longer, know what I mean? Recently I've lived off social security benefit." [108] At the time of the interview most of the respondents were unemployed. In addition to their social security benefits, they earn extra money through prostitution, odd jobs for dealers or moonlighting. Only five respondents had a job which could be considered more or less regular.
Social life and visiting pubs does not play such an important role. The respondents often limit their social contacts to family, a partner who is often taking drugs too and acquaintances in a similar situation who are also in the hard drugs scene. Their whole existence revolves around drug use.
5.8.2    Drug carreer
Pre-cocaine period
Alcohol and cannabis were the first drugs with which they had contact. Opium, speed and pills are no exception. In an number of cases, the pattern of drug use shows clear compulsive indications. Blowing is daily and the amounts are considerable, there are also signs of medicine addiction or large amounts of alcohol being consumed. "Every day hash. In the morning when we got up 'till the evening we finished it. The whole day long, thus." [054] "I used to be addicted to valium and librium. And at a certain moment I didn't take them any more because of coke. And I really liked that, of course." [101] The majority (21 respondents) have also had experience of heroin and methadone. In the most of these cases there are indications of compulsive heroin use preceding cocaine. The reasons why people started taking heroin vary. In the one case it was a question of curiosity, in another the wish to belong to a group, while still others saw it as a means of escape from their problems. The older users, in particular, had a long heroin career behind them before they switched to cocaine. The younger respondents who began with heroin have switched to cocaine more quickly. Drugs such as LSD, mushrooms and XTC are experimented with but they appear to be less popular with this group and are of minor importance.
The age at which the respondents start with cocaine varies greatly. One respondent began at the age of 13 years another when she was 31. The average age of initial contact is 18 years. Twelve respondents began their poly-drug career with cocaine. In six cases the initiation was in the pub world or a group of close friends. "I used to go to a lot of pubs with my girlfriend and people snorted there quite a lot. Then it was 'Want a little snort? Want a tip? Want a smoke?' 'Yeah, that's the way boy.' And so I was snorting and smoking. I liked it. I was a bit tipsy. And suddenly I didn't feel well when I was tipsy." [108] The majority of the respondents had their first contact with cocaine in the hard drug scene. This is not surprising in the case of experienced heroin users.
The reasons for taking cocaine are diverse. People often find it difficult to say how and why they began. Availability, curiosity, group pressure or problems are the reasons most often stated. "Through the heroin contacts. And then there was suddenly coke. I tried it out then and within a week I was taking five grams a day. After a couple of months I was on the brink of collapse: I wanted a clinic or to commit suicide." [085] "At a certain moment my husband bought it, I gave all my money to my husband. Now and then I sniffed it but I didn't really like it. Now you can also cook it and chase the dragon. Then at a certain moment he had a shot and he said, 'Now, do you want to try it too?' Now, then I was really far gone on it because if you have shot once you keep doing it." [006] In four cases, the use of cocaine and, in particular, the negative side-effects are a direct reason for starting on heroin. Taking heroin appeared to enable the negative side-effects such as agitation and paranoia to be reduced and become manageable, at least at first. "If there was no coke over I wanted more coke. Or I had to take something to quieten down. At first I did with a blow of hash, but it took far too long before I was calmed down. Then I began smoking heroin. That suddenly went fast. First the coke and then after that chasing the dragon a couple of times. And then you get relaxed. I thought: 'that's the solution'. But then I suddenly got sick when I hadn't had it for a month. Then I thought to myself: 'Shit, now I have to see how I get hold of some heroin again.'" [108] "I see other people, examples galore around me, they start going off their rockers, paranoia. They do crazy things and see little bugs and things. Then you think 'that's not for me' and you then mix it with 'brown'. Then you have made sure that you don't get the madness itself. I don't know, it is a sort of self-protection. Because if I'm out stealing, and I get paranoia, then I've no life. From self protection I always add a bit of brown. That work's well and tastes good too." [047] For most people, however it is a question of availability combined with curiosity which forms the main reason to starting on heroin in addition to cocaine. "First it was the coke and then an acid pill and then they said one day: 'brown is also good to smoke, you should try it'. And that's what I did." [101]
The length of time people have been taking cocaine ranges from three years to twenty years. Most of the respondents having been on cocaine for more than seven years and 15 of them for more than ten years. Particularly in the case of those who have experience of heroin, cocaine consumption increases quickly. "Yes, I began to use more very quickly, particularly heroin with it to temper the agitation you feel with cocaine." [034] "My whole drug intake it went up and as time went on it was cocaine which became increasingly important." [059] The respondents who were not yet on heroin when they began with cocaine experienced a calmer initiation. This refers in particular to those who started taking cocaine in the pub world or the circuit of close friends. "At a certain moment it was a ball of pep. But well, I found that sharp and disgusting and I didn't care for it at all. And then it was 'gosh, then you should have a go at coke'. That's what I did then. And after that I have smoked a line once in a while in the weekend." [099] After some time they begin to amounts increased, particularly after they had started using other methods in addition to sniffing. Most respondents are taking cocaine on a daily basis and the amounts taken are usually considerable. "Sometimes you shot 15 grams a day, depending on the price and the money you have." [049] "Until I was 17 years old. Then I went really crazy. Then I learnt to burgle and what have you. We each stole for four or five thousand guilders ($ 2,000 - 2,500) a day. That meant too that we went on a drugs binge afterwards. First came heroin, one, two, sometimes three grams. Then came cocaine of 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 to sometimes 15 grams in one day. We based. I got completely crazy from it but I was able to stop of my own accord at a certain moment." [086] Cocaine comes to play a dominant role for most of the respondents and that goes increasingly at the cost of other drugs. Heroin, for example, is bought only to avoid being sick. When money is available, most of it is spent on cocaine.
The hard drug scene forms the main circuit in which the respondents take cocaine. They often take it at home, at dealers', at more public places such as the Central Station and in telephone cubicles. They take it mostly alone, with a partner, or other drug users. "Well, on the way, metro or at the station itself, I make a quick visit to Platform 3, go a mo' in a waiting shelter. Then I smoke it up and then I go on my way." [029] "Nine times out of ten at the address where I bought it and otherwise at home. My father wasn't at home then and you could stretch out on the settee. Then you didn't need to do it on a stairway. If I wasn't sick, I could wait until I got home." [085] "At the dealer's place I usually wasn't allowed to shoot, then I went in the woods, a squat or home, anywhere where I could get water, you could say." [059] Ten respondents have exchanged heroin for cocaine. They are off heroin completely. As far as the others are concerned, cocaine plays a more or less dominant role but they continue to take heroin as well. "First I took more heroin, then coke and after that I had a period that I took only speed. Coke was difficult to get at that time. Then I started on heroin and coke, took it at the same time, and before I knew it I landed up in hospital with an overdose. It was then that I got off heroin. Coke not, I like it too much." [059] Speed, XTC, cannabis and other drugs play a subordinate role if they are used at all. These drugs are used only as substitutes when others are unavailable. Methadone continues to play a significant role for most respondents, it serves as a form of basic provision.
The respondents have experience of different methods of taking cocaine, mainly basing, chasing the dragon and injecting. Sniffing is not very popular with this category and plays a only minor role. It is mainly limited to respondents who have not yet had experience of heroin and are beginning the pub life. "Then snorting coke, smoking and later basing, but I didn't get a kick from that any more. And then the shot and that was it. It was more and more often." [054] "I have never snorted. I began immediately with basing. I have never sniffed, I didn't think it worth anything, that sniffing." [042] "It began with snorting coke, then it was cooked and foil. I had once had coke that didn't go well with foil. It burnt up so quick, it was very odd. I knew then how you must base and so on, and then I tried that. Then I thought: 'so, this is much better'. A totally different effect too. That was when it really began." [108] Sniffing is tried out by most people but they are usually disappointed in the effect. It does not give the flash, or the kick which they are looking for. "Snorting coke is something I've never done. Snorting that is usually in the discos, isn't it? But I've never bought cocaine in discos, only at home addresses. I have never used pills and other things at the same time. First I based only and later I began with shots, both heroin and cocaine." [027] "Snorting, basing and injecting. You can make a stairway, in fact. Snorting is the most relaxing, on foil you get worked up more quickly, basing is again more intensive and with a shot you have a real explosion. But the feeling is really only for a minute and then you feel yourself getting cold blooded. With basing I find it very difficult to cope with the after-effect. Then you feel very unsure of yourself. That is that really paranoia feeling. Some people just allow it to fade but I can't wait so long. I make sure that I have some smack." [085] The preference for methods other than sniffing is probably also significant for the fast increase in consumption. In that respect, cocaine appears to have a totally different character to heroin. "At a certain moment you need more. At first you need almost nothing particularly if you don't inject. That applies to heroin and cocaine, but with cocaine it suddenly goes very fast. If you really want to continue there is no stop to it any more." [086]
Different effects are stated depending on the way in which cocaine is taken. Heroin is often combined with the cocaine. "Look and if you take a shot of heroin then you get a nice warm feeling suddenly, through your whole body, know what I mean? And you feel yourself pleasantly fall away. But in combination with coke you first get the hit of the coke. All you hair stands on end and your heart beats three times so hard and your blood flow is suddenly much faster. But immediately after it the heroin starts to work. So you go up but then you are brought down again." [080] "I've sometimes tried to describe the feeling. If I took a shot of coke then I went with the horse-sleigh to heaven and then I came slowly sliding back." [085] "The effect of a cocktail can be described as a flash. The same as when you knock back a swig of tequila. From the coke by itself you go up like a spear, but you come down like a spear too. From the cocktail you go up like a spear but you stay longer hanging there, that's what's so good about it. And from smack by itself you are completely muzzy, you go completely down. The difference in effect between injecting and sniffing is that you get high in a different way. With injecting the hit is much harder. I have sometimes shot pure cocaine and the bubbles came out of my ears. Just as if the lid was lifted off your brains." It is noticeable that a number of cocaine users state that, after basing cocaine, the intensity of noises increases tremendously. "Noise increases, everything is louder and you hear sounds that don't exist. You get a bit paranoid from it." [070]
Occasionally, the more social effects are stated, such as it being easier to start talking to someone and a feeling of euphoria. These are exceptions however and this continues to be limited to a short period at the beginning. It refers particularly to people who had not yet experienced heroin when they began taking cocaine. After a while more negative effects are stated. Paranoia is an effect which is mentioned by most respondents. "It is just as if your brains are wound back to zero. You are living now, you are exclusively concerned with what is happening now. You react to everything that is happening now. You are rid of the past. What happened before this, what you felt and so on, you are rid of it. You therefore concentrate very strongly on the present." [101]
Cocaine is mostly purchased from private addresses where heroin is also sold. In addition to heroin, cocaine is found there too, nowadays. A dealer who does not sell 'white' (cocaine) can just as well close down his business. This market is clearly intertwined with the heroin market. "I could buy both there. A dealer who sells only coke or smack isn't worth anything. He must always have both." [085] "The dealers of today sell everything. You no longer have dealers who sell only coke or only smack." [090] Some respondents deal on a small scale and in such cases they sell heroin too.
5.8.3    The significance and function of cocaine
Drug use forms the central feature of the life of these respondents. "You are always thinking of dope. If you go to bed and when you wake up." [045] "You are totally fixated on drug taking, you just put all sorts of other things aside, you don't have the peace and quiet to deal with them." [049] "I had no food, it didn't interest me either. I didn't feel hungry. All the money I had went to the dealer." [107] The social aspect, which was evident in some cases when they first started on cocaine, has been pushed completely into the background. Cocaine is not seen as a pleasurable drug but as a drug to which the user is addicted and which he needs. It is also taken in the context of problems. "You have people who do it once or in fact for the kick, sexual. But for me it is simply that I am addicted. You simply need it." [027] "It makes you a bit alert, you see the world differently. I take when I feel rotten. And if I take it, then I feel good again. It is a sort of illusion." [088] The group of friends the respondents associate with is gradually reduced to consisting mainly of people in a similar situation who are also poly-drug users. The subcultural setting of the hard drugs scene becomes their most important domain. "At the end I hardly went anywhere but just stayed at home. Then some old friends came along and asked if I was afraid to go out. Then I asked, 'what do you mean?' 'Now yes, we never see you outside, only for a moment on the balcony and nowhere else.' I said 'no, no I just don't feel like going out.' I have my coke and my smack and a table and I keep going, like that the whole day." [108] "You don't see your family any more, you don't talk any more with your family. You go at it five nights in a row. You could say that things change." [047] For many respondents, the use of drugs has resulted in a socially isolated existence and cocaine appears to reinforce this isolation. Due to such effects as agitation, paranoia and hypersensitivity for sounds and noise, people prefer to take cocaine on their own. "There are no advantages I can think of. In the past there were. I used to feel good with drugs. And then it attracted certain people but now it only puts people off. (..) You live in a small isolated group. You are no longer very concerned about other people." [085] "Lost my job. The longer you take it you lose everything you have. You sell things for it, run up debts, start stealing and the like. It only gets worse." [048]
Increasingly, the reason given for taking cocaine is the inability to do without it. The respondents are addicted. "At a certain moment you don't know why you smoke it, you just smoke it. Then you find you don't even enjoy it any more. You get worked up and feel paranoid and you are confronted with yourself and then you take still more and that is the interaction. You smoke coke, but you smoke heroin at the same time and after it to suppress everything again. I can't even tell you why I take cocaine. When I take it I don't like it and I want to stop as quickly as possible and I do that by taking other things. And if it succeeds a bit and I am again relaxed then you start smoking again. But that's the main theme that runs through your addiction." [107] The use of cocaine is increasingly accompanied by problem aspects, particularly if the user does not have a large supply at his disposal either through his own dealer activities or contacts in the criminal circuit.
Within the poly-drugs consumption, it is cocaine that is the most prominent drug. The attitude towards both heroin and cocaine varies. The one respondent sees heroin as his saviour the other as a curse. "That heroin is disastrous and that's why it has all gone wrong. I got that heroin through friends. You see guys using it and then you want to try it out yourself and then another time and so it goes on." [070] "I am still pleased that I started taking heroin. Coke is just the dope for me, but I can't cope with it at all." [107] The attitude to cocaine is characterised by a lot of ambivalence. The less negative connotation of cocaine compared to heroin initially gives some people the hope that they can use it as a means of overcoming heroin addiction. In the long run, the medicine appears to be worse than the illness. "At first by taking a great amount of coke I didn't take heroin. I knew that coke did not bring any physical addiction with it, only psychic. I never had withdrawal symptoms then. I once got off heroin and that was a real hell. If I could do it through cocaine that would be ideal. But it is unaffordable and you can't even get enough money through stealing." [085] "I find cocaine hellish. It's just as if the devil has strewn it on earth." [108] As we said earlier, most respondents have an ambivalent attitude towards cocaine. One of the respondents expressed it as follows: "Coke is so bloody good. It is so drastic. It is really the greatest goddamn mess there is." [049]
5.8.4    Problem aspects
Many respondents consider cocaine a dangerous and addictive drug. It is a drug you can never get enough of and in that sense it is more dangerous than heroin. "Coke is something you can just keep smoking. I think that coke is psychologically more addictive than heroin. Only it does not seem to be physically so addictive." [065] "I see so much happening around me that I think it is worse than heroin and not just twice as bad but a hundred times worse." [034] Virtually all the respondents state that they are addicted. "Coke is the worst addiction. It is worse than all the other addictions put together. Coke is simply awful. Nothing interests you and nothing has any value any more. You do everything you can to get the money." [107] "If you want a little of it, can keep it in hand with sniffing but once you start basing there is no end to it." [108]
Poly-drug use has led to a broad range of problems, from physical difficulties to legal problems. "That you start to fall apart, physically. And you live at a certain moment only for the cocaine. You start to sweat, so you automatically lose body fluid. You get thinner. I weighed only 68 kilo when I was 17 while I should have weighed 78/80 kilo." [086] "I was detained once again and I was really in a bad way and I weighed 56 kilo. Thus loose skin on my legs, abscesses and the like, all coke poisoning. I could hardly walk. Then I finally stopped. You have to stand behind the decision. I have often said I stop. But as soon as you are out of detention you are sold again. You were physically off it but not mentally." [054]
Paranoia is one of the most frequently cited problems linked to compulsive cocaine use. "You see that yourself now. I was literally and figuratively a weasel. I am quick and nervous. I have one think in my head: coke. You have to do with the police of course and you are very unsure of yourself. You place for example a cup on the door handle and a saucer under. If someone touches the handle you hear it immediately. At a certain moment you daren't go to sleep any more." [085] "From coke shots I was paranoid at a certain moment, I took a pistol in my pocket wherever I went. When the police came to my door I nearly shot someone in that condition. I got a real fright from that and I then consciously stopped injecting." [049]
The compulsive cocaine consumption of the respondents presents serious financial problems too unless they are dealing themselves or in a circuit where large supplies are available. The financial problems of cocaine users are probably even greater than those on heroin. "We got bankrupt from the large degree of drug use. At a certain moment we were using drugs faster than the money came in, it was hardly possible (...) From the coke. Because that's how it is with coke, with heroin if you are stoned you are stoned and then you don't want anything more. But with coke, if you have shot coke, at the moment you empty the syringe you are busy preparing the next shot." [029] "Right at the beginning I had money problems. At a certain moment I couldn't pay the rent from my social security benefit. I then soon started breaking in, forging cheques and the like. When later I really got into the underworld I didn't really have money problems any more. I then did everything which God has forbidden. Smuggling, courier work, etc. All that had no directly link to coke, but on the other hand it did. It was simply intertwined with coke. It was then already that I was addicted to coke. It was available all the time, but I was expected to do something for it." [101]
In order to solve their financial problems, some respondents deal, while others perform odd jobs for dealers or turn to regular illegal (criminal) activities. "I sold heroin myself for 175 guilders a gram and bought it for a hundred guilders a gram. So I didn't need to do anything. The money came streaming in." [029] A number of respondents admit that they do things for cocaine which they would not do for heroin. "I was then taking around five grams a day but it could have been ten. It got so bad that we broke into houses when the housewife was hanging up the laundry. We then went away and talked about it. If I had then seen something in the house that we had forgotten we simply went back. When I am sober I am not such a hero, but under the influence of coke I was." [085] For women, prostitution presents an opportunity to earn money (a number of the female respondents were already prostitutes and that is how they came into contact with cocaine). "Heroin you don't go chasing, the coke meant that I went street walking and started stealing (...) I could only do the prostitution I did under the influence of cocaine, your threshold is lowered and you let it happen to you." [048] Nine respondents were in jail at the time of the interview, mainly in connection with breaking and entering and robbery. The various offenses are attributed to the use of cocaine. "At the beginning we only used heroin and then you've enough with one or maybe two grams at the end of two weeks. And then we did two break-ins a week and we had plenty of money to spare. At a certain moment we had to break in to get the cash we needed. When you don't have any money left." [086] "Yes, I have certainly had money problems and detention problems. That was just the way it went with me. If I don't take (cocaine) any more I won't get arrested. Stealing for drug consumption." [086]
Criminal acts are carried out in order to obtain cocaine and under the influence of cocaine. "Mediation between dealers and buyers. But at the beginning I did a lot of break-ins, but that was also due to the coke. But at a certain moment you go hunting for anything which is worth money. Your whole life is a hunt. Car radios, small offices. But that is really grim. In the one office you can pick up 2000 guilders ($ 1000) and the other a couple of cents. It simply isn't worth it. I have had times that I had to get my hands on money four or five times a day. But then almost all of it for coke. And with smack you have it that you begin to get stoned, then you've had enough, but with coke not." [107] In particular, they say that the influence of cocaine is the reason for the (violent) crimes they commit. "Stabbings. There was a silver paper of mine lying there and then 'bla, bla' and he pulled a knife and I pulled a knife. I think I was less aggressive when I was only on heroin. You get so worked up from that coke. Jail for three to six weeks. The last time 19 months for robbery with violence. There was shooting and people were injured. That too was a reason for stopping." [054] "I'm easy going as far as that is concerned, if I've no money I can just go and rip it off someone. Look, that is what has become a danger recently, I go about things too easy, I am easy with that sort of thing, I don't see the danger of it. That is connected with the coke, because it makes you increasingly merciless." [042]
The majority of the respondents have some form of contact with the drug assistance agencies. This varies from an occasional contact with the CAD or family doctor to (more) intensive attempts to kick the drug in detox (detoxification) centres. Most respondents have also participated, for varying lengths of time, in methadone programmes. In some cases, this contact is purely pragmatic. It is simply a means to obtain methadone and exchange syringes. The respondents express different opinions about the drug assistance agencies. These range from positive to negative. "I have been in various 'detox centres'. I came in as a real sharp guy and I have gone through all the phases of the breaking down process. At first I went around challenging all the staff. I don't think much of them. At a certain moment I simply made use of them, I was very clever at that." [067] "Positive, I can always go and talk there. They give you support. I go for a talk once every four weeks. I don't tell them everything, mind you, but I do get support from it. If I'm in difficulties I can make an appointment." [098]
People decide to do something about their cocaine taking only when they have serious problems. These may be physical problems or involvement with the police or lawcourt. The contacts usually have a forced character and occur during a period of detention through the intervention of the probation service. One or two of the respondents did seek help on their own initiative at an earlier stage.
5.9    The cocainists
The description of this type is based on 13 respondents, all men. Their average age is 27, the youngest is 19 years and oldest 47 years. Cocaine plays a central and dominating role in their lives. The compulsive use of cocaine is typical of this category of user but, in contrast to the poly-drug type, heroin is excluded. There is little or no contact with the hard drug scene. Problems, including disrupted childhood years, are mentioned comparatively frequently as the reason for starting on cocaine. Over time, the compulsive use of cocaine has become a real problem. Physical, psychological and financial difficulties are frequently cited. These respondents see themselves as addicts. Some respondents are dealing in cocaine and these activities have involved them with the police and lawcourts.
5.9.1    Socio-economic background and status
The family backgrounds vary considerably, from working class to upper middle class. The jobs of the fathers range from bus driver to company director. "My father did things on the local market, he had a stall there." [007] "My father was the managing director of three companies." [15.02] The mothers were the ones mainly responsible for bringing up the family. In many cases, the childhood years were experienced as disruptive. Most respondents state that they had problems and left home at a relatively young age. A number of them had periods in children's homes. "After two years lower technical school I left home. I moved in with a girlfriend." [020] "I was put in a children's home when I was two, here in Rotterdam, until I was 11 because my parents were getting a divorce. I went home once for a month but I got so fed up with it that I went back to the children's home of my own accord. But that was also because it was all so strange, you know. When I was 11 or 12 I went home again. When I was 13, left home and lived for six months with a group of friends. I then came home again but after that it was again trouble and I was off again." [023] "Now, when I was 12 I landed in a children's home." [028] The school courses which the respondents begin, mostly at lower and upper technical school level, are often not completed. In a several cases this is linked to the fact that they began taking cocaine at that stage. Only two respondents completed their schooling. "Lower retail trade school. Alas, I didn't finish it because at that time my problems began." [019] "I don't have a diploma either. I'm sorry about that. I tried twice to follow a training in the catering trade. I couldn't finish due to circumstances. I began to take too much cocaine at that time." [022]
Job careers, too, came under pressure due to the use of cocaine. "After I left school I worked in a butcher's. Then once with a cleaning firm, but I left that because I was too stuffed and couldn't get on with the other workers. That was because I was into coke then." [23] Four respondents have a regular job and one is still at school. Most were unemployed at the time of the interview. The income position varies considerably. "If we talk about net amounts, then between 4,500 and 5,000 guilders ($ 2,250 - 2,500) a month. But a lot is taken off that even before I start spending on cocaine." [072] "2,988 guilders ($ 1,500) net. That includes all the overtime and irregular shift bonuses. When all the debts are paid there is still 1,500 guilders ($ 750) for myself. My work is my only source of income." [026] In addition to regular income from a salary or social security benefit, most of the respondents have semi-legal or illegal income. "I have a social security benefit. I do other work on the side. That was two days a week but now it is five or six days a week." [022] Five respondents add to their income by dealing in cocaine. Insofar as pub life is significant, it is mainly in the context of cocaine. They visit pubs where cocaine is normally available or where they mix with friends who are also taking it.
5.9.2    Drug carreer
Pre-cocaine period
Virtually all the respondents have had experience of alcohol and cannabis. Drugs such as speed have also been taken. LSD is less popular. None of them has tried heroin. "At the beginning in the local community centre in particular. Then we smoked a 'blow' and later two and in the end every day. And I still smoke. At first I didn't smoke any shag but out of a pipe and that is quite expensive and so I also started to smoke. By the time I was 20 or so I had also had the odd mushroom and the like, but no coke yet." [026] "First alcohol, then speed, then coke. And that is all the time more and better. Coke and speed less then blowing." [089] A number of respondents admit that before using cocaine they have been heavy drinkers. In some cases this has been a problem. "Since '85 I have had drinking problems for a while." [019] "I drank at first only in the weekend. Only later it increased and then it was every day. At the moment I drink no alcohol. I'm now kicking it. But at a certain moment I went from beer to bacardi-cola and I took 20 to 25 an evening. And that cost a mountain of money. In my case it was definitely linked to the weekend. And if I didn't go to the pub in the weekend, I still got sloshed." [026] In the phase preceding the use of cocaine, some respondents state that problems had begun to play an important role. "First I blowed myself completely dopey. I think I also took alcohol then and with one aim - to escape from all my troubles." [104]
Most respondents have come into contact with cocaine at quite a young age. The average age was 17 but five of them had their first contact with cocaine before they were 15. The entertainment circuit and the home circuit formed the most important circuits of initiation. "I was at a house party and then I met someone I know and he asked if I wanted it too. I told him I had never had it but he said 'oh, that doesn't matter you will just be a bit awake from it.' I then took a line and I liked it. Later I started smoking 'plofjes', they had twisted the cocaine into them." [023] "At some party or other. I was blind drunk and one thing followed another. And the first time you see all stars. You are completely awake and think that you are superman. The first time was just too crazy for me. Alas. That was immediately three days running and the next three months every weekend. Then I got a nose bleed and scared myself stiff and said never again. But after a while you just go at it again." [026]
The knowledge the respondents had of cocaine before they started using it was limited. One of them threw the cocaine in the coca-cola the first time he took it. He thought that the two were related. The result was disappointing, however.
The duration of cocaine use varies from 1 year to 33 years. The average time is five years. At first consumption was to some extent limited and there are indications of a slight rise. "At first it was once a week. At a certain moment you go out more and learn to know more places and friends who also take it and then you take more all the time." [23] "At a certain moment I went in search for a better dealer because the stuff I first used was not so good. And finally I found someone who had good stuff and from that moment it was every weekend. And that has extended to also during the week in order to get awake. But you then need three times as much in the weekend. And this lasted for a period of three years." [026]
From a certain moment however, use increases sharply. This is mainly linked to the moment at which the user switches to a method other than sniffing. This sometimes happens early on in the cocaine career. "When I had sniffed a lot for a couple of months, I started chasing the dragon more and I got really addicted and went out breaking into cars and houses. Chasing the dragon is an addictive method. My boss is addicted to snorting. That isn't real addiction as far as I am concerned." [022] "Yes, then I started basing, then you get a flash you could say. You want to get that flash every time and that doesn't happen, you only get it once. The first pot which you take gives you a kick and after that you can take another five grams of coke and that it doesn't help. The real flash you only get the first time. The first draw you get a kick and that simply never comes back again. Yes, or you must take nothing for two hours. That's what you do therefore, you just keep going." [028] In the periods of chasing the dragon and basing the frequency and amounts used increase. They are taking it daily and the amounts increase sometimes to more than 5 grams a day. "I am now taking half a gram a day, while before in the initial period I was taking 3 grams a day. But I don't want it every day any more." [23] "The amount of coke I use has clearly increased. I have gone up from a quarter a day to a little more than a gram a day." [072] "I got around four grams of coke a day and in a month, well just count." [028]
Most of the respondents have had no contact with the hard drugs scene. Insofar as they sniff, this is done mostly in the entertainment environment. As soon as basing and chasing the dragon become dominant, however, the respondents switch to taking cocaine at home or in (cocaine) dealers' places. Cocaine use has an individual character, they often take it without other people around. "No, never in discos. You can't cook it there." [007] "It depends on how and when. If I've enough money I do it alone. If I don't have enough money we share it, but I prefer to be on my own." [019] "I started taking it on my own." [104] Currently, cocaine is the main drug being used by this category. It is often taken together with alcohol which continues to play an important role. Blowing, XTC and speed are less important and fade into the background.
Nearly all respondents have experience of sniffing, basing, chasing the dragon, and smoking. Injecting is the major exception. Two respondents are different in that their experience is exclusively with sniffing. "Chasing the dragon, you light up while its lying on the foil. You have a pipe in your mouth and you hold the lighter under it. Basing isn't worth anything. With basing you have a glass in front of you with a bit of ash at the bottom. You fold some foil around this and put an elastic band around it. You make a couple of holes on one side. By then pressing your lighter on the ash and your lips over the holes. The smoke which comes into the glass you suck out of the glass again. But that works only five minutes. I have never shot." [023] "Cocaine I have sniffed, smoked, based. My regular method was sniffing and smoking 'plofjes'." [026]
The effects described vary and depend on the method used. With sniffing, the main effects reported are more self confidence, more stamina and the ability to chat easily. "You feel clear headed. You get a tremendous self confidence, you think you can take on the world." [23] "You are very alert, I see everything. My self confidence is increased. Also interaction with others, it all goes much easier. But sometimes you go a bit too far in your contacts with strangers." [023] "It all depends on you. One person gets aggressive. I don't have that. The one does it differently to the other. I become calm. You walk faster, easier. You are active from it, you can't sleep from it. I think you also dare to do more. Laugh more readily at comic TV shows." [089] In the case of chasing the dragon and basing the effect is described as a flash. "Smoking goes very quickly and lasts a very short time. Basing is even worse, you are immediately knocked out. Then you can smoke it pure, but then you are knocked out even longer. I found that a bit painful, I sometimes got the feeling that I couldn't get my breath." [026] All respondents admit that in addition to positive effects there are also negative effects linked to cocaine use over time. "Sometimes seeing paranoid things. Or seeing double, two lampposts or the like, the one time I get that the other time not." [089]
Cocaine is mostly bought at private addresses which deal only in cocaine and in the pubs. Five respondents are (small) dealers themselves and obtain their cocaine from larger dealers who do not trade in heroin. "Only coke. The boys who sell on the Binnenweg [a city street] and at the station, also sell heroin and speed. The dealers who I know have a sort of code of honour and sell only coke. It is the gold among drugs. If you want to be respected you sell only coke." [022]
5.9.3    The significance and function of cocaine
The reasons for beginning with cocaine are diverse. Curiosity plays a certain role just as does the availability of cocaine. "I saw fellows gurgling at a sort of bottle. Then I suddenly said to one of the addicts 'give me a go'. Then they said to me 'you mustn't do that because in no time such and so' Now I just wanted it (...) but I've always been contrary, always doing the opposite. I had to experience it myself. Then I had a couple of goes, now you feel yourself incredibly happy." [007] In many cases, however, problems confronting the respondent were given as the reason for beginning. They take cocaine in order to forget their problems. "Everything was going wrong. I had run away from home. I just wanted to forget everything." [022] "I also took it in order to forget my problems. But it works only for a moment, after five minutes it is over. Therefore it solves nothing." [023] "Until in '87, when I came back from Surinam, I bumped into some friends who advised me to start taking coke to forget my sorrows. Because when I was drinking I had it that often the next day I didn't know how to get out of my bed and so on. I was nothing any more, while with coke I still had control over myself." [019] "I wanted clarity and sniff my way out of all my troubles." [104] After some time people see that this is not a real solution and that it merely makes their problems worse. For some of them, the problems begin only after they start taking a large amount of cocaine. In all cases, cocaine adopted an increasingly dominant place in their lives. "In my case coke got the better of me because I use it to excess probably." [026] "You live only for coke." [028] "Everything else is subordinated to the coke." [082] Due to the dominant role of cocaine, their personal lives change too. They lose friends, these are replaced by others (usually cocaine users) and relationships break up. This means that the cocaine becomes even more dominant. "You forget everything, nothing interests you any more. You are interested in nothing, you go nowhere, don't chase up anything any more. Once in a while I had to go somewhere and then I kept postponing it, postponing, postponing, postponing. If you knew you has to go to the tax office then I kept postponing it, postponing, postponing, postponing." [007] "In the time I wasn't taking it, I used to avoid people who were on cocaine. But since I started taking it too I can't do that any more. My circle of friends has changed too, people I used to see everyday I have now dropped. Now, not really dropped but I sought out other friends." [019] "Yes, I think that I have a different lifestyle. I think that I live less sociably. I am really sure of that." [072] The pleasure and the social effects which played a certain role at the beginning have been completely set aside as cocaine consumption has become more intensive. "To say I do it for the fun of it, no - no longer. That was in the past. I take it now in the context of my work. The weekends are extremely busy, then I take an extra line, a drink with it and then I can entertain people nicely. That's what is expected here too. I couldn't manage any more without it." [15.02]
The central role of cocaine may change as the result of a severe shock such as the death of a good friend or a period in jail. "A close friend of mine died from an overdose. He was injecting as well. I had the key of his house and I came inside and I saw him lying there, dead. It was a terrible shock. I wanted to stop with drugs then. That was the reason. Without social help, I did it by myself." [022] "I hate being shut up. Not that I've anything against the police, mind you. Those people are doing their work, but it opens your eyes. You suddenly have a clear moment. You suddenly realise you are in the can and you are well aware of how that has all come about. So the day I was released I went to the probation service and so [finished]. Being picked up was what made me change my ways. When I was arrested I was taking three grams a day in the weekend and one to one-and-a-half a day during the week. It was really bad, you can see." [026] After such a drastic occurrence, the user tries to reduce the dominant role of cocaine in his life. Two respondents stopped completely some time ago. The other respondents who at the time of the interview were not taking cocaine are in the drug-free wing of the prison. Cocaine continues to play a central role in the lives of four respondents who have not yet experienced severe shocks.
5.9.4    Problem aspects
All the respondents consider themselves addicts or as having been addicted to cocaine in the past. "And they try to say it isn't addictive, trying pulling the other one..." [007] "I have now reached the stage that I dare to admit: 'I am simply addicted to it, full stop'. It's crap to say that is not the case if you are taking more than a gram a day." [072] The positive aspects which were evident at the beginning are now overshadowed by negative ones. "Everything is negative. At first it's positive for a short while, but that comes mostly from the stories of other people." [23] Intensive use of cocaine causes a wide range of problems. There are the physical problems, difficulties in relationships and social contact, financial problems and the encounters with the police and lawcourts. "Sleeplessness, tension, backache and the like. Sore throat, sore glands, and swallowing. That you simply were unable to swallow, that your whole mouth was burnt. A sort of perforation in my cheek on the inside. If I then ate something spicy or the like, then you just felt it burn. There are all holes burnt in it and in my stomach too." [007] "Your body deteriorates. You get very thin and your voice becomes hoarse from that chasing the dragon. Recently I am feeling better. My voice is less hoarse because I have completely stopped with chasing the dragon. You are also far more likely to get a nosebleed from sniffing." [23] "I lost nineteen kilo. I eat very little therefore. From 73 to 54 (kilos) is a nasty jump, I find. I do try to eat as normally as possible, lots of raw vegetables and that sort of thing to keep my body healthy. I'm still succeeding in doing that. Those are clear physical consequences. Your resistance is lowered too, of course." [072]
Intensive use is an expensive affair for the respondents and results in financial problems. "I always paid. Even if there was no money left in my account. I was 5,000 guilders ($ 2,500) in the red on my credit card and another 3,000 guilders ($ 1,500) in the red on my bank account. I got a loan for this by another credit bank and in that way paid my debts. But you mustn't think that I got a shock from that, because a month later I was in the same position once again. And now I have a total bank debt of 23,000 guilders ($ 11,500) but fortunately only at my own bank. Yes and now I'm laughing about it but more because I find it so very stupid of me." [026] "I don't experience so many negative things now. When I was chasing the dragon it was different. If I had only saved all that money!.... I think that I was spending at least eight to nine hundred guilders ($ 400 - 450) a week on chasing the dragon. I could get it for 95 guilders ($ 44) a gram." [022] Only two respondents succeeded in financing their cocaine consumption in a legal manner. As can be seen above, one of them got into serious debt. The other respondents have been involved in some form of criminal activities. You cannot conclude from this, however, that cocaine use leads to criminal activities. In one case the respondent claims his criminal activities were directly related to his frequent use of cocaine while others say they were involved in crime before they began on cocaine. "Car theft, breaking into cars, firearms offenses. I sold weapons. I bought them in Belgium. I sold them with three hundred percent profit. A friend of mine who was picked up ratted on me. I then served six months. I was first in the juvenile prison in Breda and then here (in Rotterdam). In the D wing. Every day you had a urine test for drug use. But it wasn't too strict." [022] Five respondents are dealing in cocaine and are thereby able to largely finance their own drug taking. "I sell it myself, here too to a very select group, it is true. Because I don't want to be known as a dealer, certainly not. People are very pleased with it. I don't see myself like that at all. I don't fetch any large amounts since I can't take that risk with the business, naturally. When somebody wants something I usually get a telephone call and I get it delivered or I go and get it. Never in large amounts. I don't dare do that (..) I am able to finance my own consumption to some extent. Around thirty percent of it." [072] "I limit my activities to coke, speed, XTC, liquids. If I am selling I wear other clothes, always sunglasses on. In order to make it known that they have to watch out with me. That they have to keep out of my way because I am walking with something. Usually we approach people and say, 'listen, we have coke, interested?' Often they want to try it first. But we don't allow that. We have a very good one. There are also dealers who sell coke with one percent coke and ten percent speed. I work for my own dealer." [089] Four respondents were in prison at the time of the interview. This was mainly in connection with their dealer activities.
Most of the respondents have had some form of contact with the (drug) assistance agencies. These contacts vary from the odd visit to the family doctor to intensive supervision by CAD and the probation service. In four cases this was largely on their own initiative or due to the efforts of a partner or friend. In such cases, the first approach is usually to the family doctor. "I once went to the doctor and I got methadone from him. I find that unbelievably disgusting but I wanted to get myself off the chasing the dragon procedure. But helping you get off coke, that man isn't able to do that, what he can do is help you get off chasing the dragon because that is much stronger than a 'plofje'. Chasing the dragon is far more addictive." [104] "I stopped through Xynoclan. I phoned the family doctor and said I was taking cocaine." [104] "I spent a short period in a clinic at my own request. For alcohol and coke both together. I had then a very short period that everything got out of hand, that I couldn't control it any more. Then some very close friends of mine tried to talk to me about it. It didn't help to get off the coke. It was all far too short for that. The whole programme is something like two years." [072] For others, the programme is compulsory and in closely linked to a period of imprisonment when the respondent comes into contact with CAD and the probation service. In general, the experience of the drug assistance agencies are not positive. The addiction is seen as a problem which, in the final instance, the individual must solve himself. This is probably due to the fact that cocaine is considered a psychological addiction. "The rotten thing about coke is that it isn't a physical addiction. It is a mental addiction." [15.02]
5.10    Summary
Eight categories of users, each with a different cocaine lifestyle, have been distinguished. They are characterised by the specific combination of the role played by cocaine in the lifestyle and the significance of cocaine.
The Burgundian type
Cocaine plays a role of only minor significance in the lifestyle of this category. It is part of a predominantly luxurious style of living. Cocaine is seen as an exclusive social drug and its use is consciously limited in order not to compromise this exclusive character. A crucial role is played by the circuit of close friends, both for obtaining the cocaine and for its consumption.
The experience type
For this type, cocaine is of a limited significance and is not a central feature of the lifestyle. The main characteristic of this category of user is that they wish to obtain personal experience. Cocaine is considered one of the means of enriching this personal experience. In each phase of use, the positive and negative effects are weighed against each other. It may be described as a calculated use of cocaine.
The situational type
Cocaine has a role on the periphery of this lifestyle. It is considered a (social) party drug. An outstanding feature is the manner in which the use of cocaine is linked to special occasions such as Christmas and New Year's Eve. The level of consumption is, to a greater or lesser degree, consciously kept within certain limits.
The distinctive type
Cocaine plays a particular role in this lifestyle and is seen as a means of subcultural distinction. Consumption of cocaine is embedded in a subculture to which the user (temporarily) belongs. He is a member of a 'select' group of users. Many aspects of use (initiation, progress and, possible, abstinence) are largely linked to the group.
The hedonist type
Sex and drugs and rock & roll are the motto for this category of user. The central feature of the lifestyle is unbridled enjoyment. Anything which can increase enjoyment in our modern society is made use of. Cocaine fits into this pattern ideally as a luxury item. Consumption ceases the moment that cocaine presents physical or financial problems thereby reducing the level of enjoyment.
The routine type
Consumption of cocaine plays a particular role in this lifestyle. Cocaine is not seen as luxury or exclusive item but simply as one of the whole range of means of enjoyment which are on offer. It is a well-tried and more-or-less integrated feature of the life of this user. Consumption of cocaine has become routine.
The poly-drug type
The main characteristic of this category is that cocaine has joined opiates as a central feature of the lifestyle. Poly-drug consumption is the pivot of the user's daily life. The user is found mostly in the subcultural setting of the hard drug scene. Compulsive consumption of cocaine is characterised by a broad range of problems (physical, financial and psychological). In addition, there are often indications of a (temporary) criminal lifestyle which may include contact with the police and lawcourts. Most members of this category have had considerable experience of different areas of the (drug) assistance agencies.
The cocainists
A central and dominating role is played by cocaine. The main characteristic of this category of user is a compulsive consumption of cocaine but without use of heroin, in contrast to the poly-drug type. Contact with the hard drug scene is non-existent or sketchy. A reason often cited for beginning with cocaine is that the user has difficulties. Compulsive consumption of cocaine becomes problematic over time. Often they are involved in the cocaine trade and in this context, there may be contact with the police and lawcourts.
1. It should be noted for the sake of clarity that this also implies that the differences within the categories are as small as possible and the similarities as large as possible.
2. Four respondents could not be included in the typology because personal characteristics (idiosyncratic elements) such as psychiatric problems, play a too dominant role in their lifestyle.
3. The Moluccas are an archipel in South-East Asia, part of a former colony of the Netherlands.
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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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