Sunday, 27 July 2008

Cracking Up




I was really pleased with this piece and think it's a really important subject. Crack has definitely become more acceptable, whether that's down to the likes of Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty's drug taking being glamorised in the media or not. In many ways, If you read Tamsin's profile, in certain groups it seems crack has gone full circle; back in the acid house days when it popped up it was seen as a cool drug. Where did it all go wrong? Have you watched Crack Heads Gone Wild? Answers on an e-card please (and I'm not talking pills...)

I've put the profiles below for your reading ease. Thanks to those who agreed to be interviewed and shared their own experiences with the drug, I know it wasn't easy.

Words: Chantelle Fiddy

TAMSIN, 33
MARKETING CONSULTANT
(RECOVERING ADDICT)

“I first experimented with crack when I was 19. It had just become really cool on the acid house scene. I never ever believed I’d become addicted like I did, I didn’t even know anything about crack… I shied away from cocaine because I thought it was worse, I was very na├»ve.

Within seven weeks of trying it I was hooked. Living by myself there was no one to stop me. And I was already involved in crime. I went from smoking a spliff to spending £90 a night, seven days a week, smoking crack till 6am. I smoked it like a spliff, mixing it with a little bit of tobacco… there was this idea that you weren’t like the crack heads if you didn’t use a pipe. Towards the end I piped though. The hit with a pipe is instant, I’d get sick straight away, have diarrhoea, it was disgusting…You see It’s not even that the high’s that great, it’s that the low is so low. That’s what people don’t understand. The low is fucking unbearable.

The more I smoked it the more I lost my morals, the more hardened I became, the more cut-off from society I became, the more entrenched in crime I became. And I also developed a huge ego – the more fucked up you become the more you believe the rest of society are a bunch of wankers and you’re really great.

But at 21 I visited Jamaica and got the shock of my life; whereas in England the gangsters and it girls did it, crack addicts over there were vilified, you were like scum of the earth. I got into trouble robbing people, but the (weed) dealer I was working for took mercy on me. They took my friend to the airport but told me I wasn’t going home. I thought I was going to be kidnapped and raped. He told me my friend Janet was actually a drugs mule and on the game, while I was a deluded, skinny, ugly crack addict. He took me to stay with his wife and daughter and they kept me there, going cold turkey for nine weeks.

I’ve been clean since. It took me some time, but I got my degree, had a beautiful daughter and have worked for some of the worlds leading brands.

As for Carol, she got 10 years for drugs trafficking and is still using (but she’s got no teeth now). Trust me when I say it’s a life-destroying drug. Three years ago my brother, Steven, killed himself because of it - he said If he ever relapsed on crack he’d kill himself so as not to go through it again. And that’s what he did. He couldn’t bare the thought. He was 31.

I’ve had to cut out any crack users from my life, that’s the mistake he made, hanging around with users. That’s why you always see Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse together. She should have been prosecuted and put in jail by now, the media have totally glamorised it. I also think that if she was a black singer she would have been treated differently - look at Ol Dirty Bastard or Bobby Brown and the way the industry treated them, they became outcasts. It’s disgusting."

BERNIE, 27
NIGHTCLUB MANAGER
(OCCASSIONAL USER)

“While people still view crack as the drug for down and outs, homeless people or those who can’t afford coke, that’s not the complete picture. I’ve been occasionally using since I was 23, when I was introduced to it at an after-party. My boyfriend and I started smoking it at weekends – not using a pipe but smoking it like a spliff – before going clubbing (and there were a lot of big London clubs you could get away with smoking it in too). If we had leftovers we’d use up our stash on a Sunday. I was no newcomer to drugs having frequently taken pills, speed, LSD and coke since I was 16. Crack is cheaper but it’s not even about that; the buzz for me is unrivalled. But I only began smoking it because I know myself. Some people think addictive personalities are a figment of the imagination but I’d argue otherwise. I can quite easily go without It for weeks at a time. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for my boyfriend for whom it became a full-time habit when he lost his job. I felt guilty about that… But when things in the flat started going missing, I had to end the relationship. I stopped using as much after that but If I ever felt myself getting onto a slippery path, I’d stop. For now I’m trying to make the most of my party years though.”

GEMMA, 30
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT
(USED ONCE)

“I worked with a crack and heroin addict for a number of years. I’d tried to help him but could never quite get into where he was coming from. I thought, maybe, if I tried it I could understand and help him sort himself out. There was also another side to crack that I’d seen; people using it for a good time.

A few years ago it wasn't really acceptable to talk about it, but since Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty have become media darlings, the social acceptance of crack has shocked me. A lot more people are fessing up to having tried it... I've seen two very different sides to the drug though.

My mate at work could function but was a nightmare; mood swings, frequent absence from the office, depression… But the other set were having the time of their lives, or so it seemed.

I tried it at someone’s house. It was rolled up with some tobacco and smoked. There was never any talk of pipes and I probably wouldn’t have tried it if that had been the case. The buzz was immense, and I could see how easily addictive it could be. I’m lucky that I’m not someone who’s ever tried a drug then developed a habit but had I not known an addict, I can’t say I wouldn’t have smoked it again. Drugs like that are best left alone. I left my job afterwards cause I knew he had to save himself. Unfortunately, that’s not yet happened. I'll be sticking to alcohol and weed."

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