The popular image of cocaine as a glamorous or benign drug couldn’t be further from the truth, as Kirstin lnnes reveals.

ight. see. the thing that’s Rgot it all fucked up is

camera phones. How the hell am I supposed to be able to do a line in front of complete strangers when I know they‘ve all got cameras‘?’ moaned Mike Skinner recently. Bless you, Mike. I’m feeling for you. For anyone on nodding terms with that shelf in the newsagents where the scandalrags gather. it’s a depressingly familiar sight. A red-raw nostril in extreme. grisly closeup. the heavily made up. wasted face of a Z-Iister blurred behind the neon ring identifying a ball of white powder. ‘KERRY’S BIG NIGHT OUT!’ ‘WHAT’S SADIE BEEN DOING'?‘ You can find out inside, of course. The charmingly-named ‘up-nose‘ shot now means big money both for paparazzi and the magazines who print them. Users may still hide out in the toilets, but cocaine went mainstream in the space of time it took Popbitch to come up with a sniggering joke about Daniella Westbrook’s septum, and celebrities like Richard Bacon. who groped his way out of children’s television purgatory when pictured doing a line, use it to gain credibility and further their careers. Cocaine has

104 16—30 Nov 2006 THE LIST

Mike Skinner

is one of many celebrities whose remarks have appeared

to glamorise cocaine use

achieved a strange sort of social acceptability we‘re almost over- familiar with it now. and familiarity. of course. breeds contempt. It‘s much easier to forget about the dangers of a drug that is indulged and laughed about. Perhaps we just aren't taking coke seriously enough.

‘Some high profile users have hit the headlines recently. and the mass media do seem to have decided that cocaine is ()K.~ says Des Spence. a Glasgow-based GP. ‘The reality particularly frotn a General Practice perspective is very different. I‘ve witnessed a fairly steep increase in problems caused by recreational cocaine use depression. agitation and anxiety following come-downs. and those associated with risk- taking behaviour while uninhibited during cocaine use unplanned



pregnancy. STDs and trauma following violence.‘

What concerns healthcare professionals like Dr Spence is that cocaine use has become increasingly widespread. The Scotsman recently reported that there were 57 cocaine-related deaths in Scotland last year. compared to 27 in 2003. but users seem to be disregarding potential health hazards. In certain circles coke has replaced ecstasy as the club drug of choice. and as it becomes more acceptable. cheaper and more readily available. tnore and more people start to try it. 'We've noticed many more students and younger professionals coming to us for help with cocaine—related problems groups who wouldn‘t really have had access to the drug or been able to afford it a generation ago.‘ says Spence. “It‘s always difficult to speculate why. but I suspect this may be related to a general reduction in cost.

‘I think recreational users often forget that developing a cocaine dependency is quick and easy. and addiction frequently leads to debt. Then there are the serious physical effects of cocaine use collapse of the bridge of the nose. chronic sinus

problems. and tnost devastatingly. the many. rising. sudden deaths associated with cocaine-induced heart attacks.‘

As The List reported in September. recent research has found that even infrequent cocaine use raises blood pressure and can put a huge strain on the heart. It causes arteries to constrict. making the risk of a heart attack up to 24 times more likely. We came by this information through the Know the Score campaign. which has been developed to remind Scottish pub and club-goers of the less palatable facts about cocaine and other drugs. By putting these facts into bars: on T—shirts. leaflets and the backs of toilet doors. Know the Score is helping to create a more honest. knowledgeable culture and get people talking about the issues. It‘s going to make at least as interesting a conversation as people banging on about themselves at half—hour bursts between toilet breaks.

()h. and they provide a free 24- hour information line. Just in case you want to get your facts straight.

Know the Score:, or freephone 0800 587 5879