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The Highs And Lows Of Ancient Heroin And Cocaine

The Highs And Lows Of Ancient Heroin And Cocaine


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For two centuries archaeologists and anthropologists have uncovered evidence of the ritual and medicinal application of mind-altering drugs which were central components in ancient human cultures. While much has been written about the use of ‘ magic mushrooms’ and other hallucinogenic fungi in prehistoric cultures, less is said about the use of opium (heroin) and coca (cocaine), which have both developed from being ancient healing and ritual plants to social poisons, but modern societies can learn much from man’s ‘primitive’ ancestors’ use of these two highly abused substances.

Papaver somniferum, commonly known as the opium poppy is native to the eastern Mediterranean but is now naturalized across much of Europe and Asia.

Archaeological Evidence of Ancient Drugs

According to a 2015 review by Dr. Elisa Guerra-Doce, an associate professor of prehistory at the University of Valladolid in Spain: “ It is generally thought that mind-altering substances, or at least drugs, are a modern-day issue, but if we look at the archaeological record, there are many data supporting their consumption in prehistoric times.” The fossils of psychoactive plants and the residues of alcohol and psychoactive chemicals found on pottery and depicted in prehistoric art, offer archaeologists information about how hunter-gatherer ancestors gathered natural plants, what their preferred pharmacological species were, and how this knowledge spread with migrations.

An artist's view of an Ottoman opium seller by F. W. Topham (London: E. Bell, c. 1850)

Migration of Ancient Drugs

According to Dr Vetulani’s 2001 paper Drug addiction. Part I. Psychoactive substances in the past and present published in the Journal Pharmacol, fossil remains of the hallucinogenic San Pedro cactus were discovered in a Peruvian cave dating back to between 8600 and 5600 BC and mescal bean seeds were found in what is now southern Texas and northern Mexico from the end of the ninth millennium BC to 1000 AD. Small stone sculptures called ‘mushroom stones’ found in Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador suggest hallucinogenic mushrooms were used in sacred cults between 500 BC and 900 AD.

San Pedro (Echinopsis pachanoi) is a hallucinogenic cactus native to the Andean slopes of Ecuador and Peru which is a South American cousin to the Central American peyote.( Peter A. Mansfeld / CA BY-SA 3.0 )

Besides hallucinogens, psychoactive substances have been used for medicinal purposes and in religious ceremonies ranging from stimulants like tobacco (nicotine) and coca (cocaine) in South America to the deeply sedative effects of poppy (opium) and hemp (cannabis) which originated in Eurasia.


The highs and lows of the opium trade in southern Africa

Credit: Shutterstock

The reach of European empires and of Indian Ocean trade networks drew southern Africa into the global politics of opium around the turn of the twentieth century. Between the late 1880s and early 1920s and there was a shift from economies of supply to regimes of control.

The colonies of Mozambique and South Africa were caught up in these big changes.

In a recent paper I highlight how official and unofficial actors shaped and responded to the global politics of opium and, in different ways, worked to benefit from these developments.

With a focus on Mozambique and, especially, South Africa, I demonstrate how the changing global politics of drug supply and suppression influenced local colonial social and political processes.

I also show how these histories influenced events worldwide, including the first efforts to use the League of Nations to control the international cannabis trade.

Opium cultivation in Mozambique

In July 1877 an unpleasant surprise greeted British Imperial consul, Captain James Frederick Elton, as he led an expedition through the Zambezi valley in Mozambique. An agricultural experiment was underway, and it seemed to be thriving. The enterprise was Portuguese the crop was opium.

This was a problem for him because there was open contestation between European countries hungry to colonise the continent. Elton recognised that active farming in this region was bad news for British interests and claim-making.

Worse, the healthy crop of Papaver somniferum heralded a new source of competition with British Indian opium that monopolised the lucrative Chinese market.

In 1874, the Mozambique Opium Cultivation and Trading Company launched its experiment with £180,000, a concession of 50,000 acres of Portuguese crown land and exclusive rights to duty-free export for 12 years.

In fact, growing opium in the Zambezi valley proved a short-lived venture.

In 1884, poppy cultivation was ended by an anti-colonial uprising. Although the violence had broader aims and targets, African workers were motivated to destroy the opium plantation because of the company's extortion of workers through taxes and forced recruitment.

Quests to profit from opium were taken up in a different way further south.

The South African leg

By the early 1900s the consumption of opium and its alkaloids, like morphine, were well established in southern Africa. A common ingredient in over-the-counter patent medicines, opiates were distributed by shopkeepers, pharmacists and missionaries.

Because of disproportionate access, white citizens were most at risk of forming a 'habit'. Afrikaans poet Eugene Marais was famously a life-long morphine injector. At least one historian has argued that the writing career of Olive Schreiner was, for a time, hampered by over-consumption of opiated Chlorodyne.

Opium also figured in labour control. Early in the century, until 1910, the Transvaal legally imported tons of opium for the use of migrant Chinese workers recruited to the gold mines. It legislated a formal system of opium provision for these workers and farmed the revenue through a customs act.

Opium consumption was entirely legal. Nevertheless, especially from 1910, the South African government sought to regulate all forms of opium sales. Police showed most interest in opium used for smoking and occasionally raided 'opium dens'. In 1910, police reported six such venues in Cape Town. All were in fact just rooms in private homes. Salon owners supplied opium, along with the pipes and lamps used to smoke it.

Their patrons were a small and eclectic community. There was, for example, William Birch, a 'Coloured' Pierrot troupe player, small time drug dealer and police informant Daisy Harris, a 'European' hotel barmaid Mr Kong Lee, who ran a laundry with his wife, a 'St Helena woman' Hamat Rajap, a Muslim tailor and Richardson (alias 'Country'), a black American traveller.

In Cape ports, sailors brought opium. Train stewards were known to move it inland. Some medical professionals also profited from a sideline supplying opium. In Johannesburg, risk-takers could try their luck smuggling Indian opium from up the coast and the port at Lourenço Marques (now Maputo).

After 1910, quantities of opium in circulation remained relatively small. Yet, international opium conferences held in the Hague in 1912 and in 1914 identified the Union of South Africa as a critical region for controlling 'dangerous drugs'. Bordered by two oceans, with multiple ports and a growing pharmaceutical manufacturing sector, the Union was instructed to embrace the protocols being drafted.

But South Africa dragged its feet. That is until the 1920s when government officials such as Jan Smuts, who served as prime minister of the Union, promoted restrictive legislation.

Smuts was also one of the architects of the League of Nations. He soon recognised that the international campaigns against 'dangerous drugs' could suit local political aims.

The government led by Smuts sought to control the consumption and production of cannabis (known as 'dagga' locally) within its borders. Cannabis had been used as medicine and recreational intoxicant by indigenous communities for at least 500 years. But the British colonial view of the plant became woven into narratives that fed white panic about crime and racial control.

South Africa requested that international bodies add cannabis to the 'dangerous drugs' list. With support from Egypt and other nations, cannabis was—along with opium, heroin, and cocaine—criminalised internationally in 1925.

The South African government also set about putting rigorous controls in place on the Mozambican border. The drive to control 'dangerous drugs' therefore also bolstered its capacity for territorial sovereignty.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


The Highs And Lows Of Ancient Heroin And Cocaine - History

People have taken mood-altering substances in various forms since time began. Remains of opium poppy husks have been found in Neolithic settlements in Europe natives of South America have long chewed coca leaves as a mild stimulant or to suppress pain almost everything faintly edible has been fermented to make alcohol.

Drug production went from cottage to factory industry from the late 1820s onwards, with Heinrich Merck’s commercialization of morphine, an extract from opium. This laid the foundation for the pharmaceutical company that still bears his name, Merck. Heroin, also known as diamorphine, was first derived from morphine in St Mary’s Medical School in London in 1874, but rediscovered by the Bayer pharmaceutical company in 1897, and marketed as a non-additive painkiller and cough medicine.

Meanwhile, cocaine was extracted from coca leaves and found widespread usage: one product available for children in the late 1800s claimed Cocaine toothache drops. Instantaneous cure! Sigmund Freud was one of many cocaine enthusiasts, as was Sherlock Holmes, much to Dr Watson’s frequent disgust.

User behaviour

From the early 20th century onwards, increasing pressure based on addictive properties of opiates and cocaine saw criminalisation for misuse. Among the many implications and consequences of such measures, it makes it tricky for us statisticians nowadays to find out how much is being swallowed, smoked, snorted or injected.

The 2011 world drug report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) illustrates this difficulty the report estimates that between 149 million and 271 million people aged 15-64 years had used an illicit drug at least once in 2009. That’s between 3.3 and 6.1% of the global population. Around 125-203 million were cannabis users (2.8-4.5% of the global population), between 14 and 56 million people (0.3-1.3%) used an amphetamine-style stimulant, 14-21 million (0.3-0.5%) used cocaine, and 12-21 million were opioid users.

The best data on drug use come from developed countries in Europe, North America and Australasia. For instance, the British Crime Survey (BCS) guarantees anonymity when it asks about use of illegal drugs. Responses scaled up to the adult (16 to 59) population of England and Wales show around one in three are estimated to have used illegal drugs in their lifetime, with around 9% using them in the past year. Men are about twice as likely to be users than women, and an unsurprising relationship found between nightclub and pub visits and illicit drug use. I could have told them that for free.

I could also tell them for free that these drugs can certainly be dangerous in the wrong hands: Manchester general practitioner Harold Shipman injected over 200 of his patients with lethal doses of diamorphine (heroin) in his murderous career, before he was finally caught in 1998 due to a clumsy forgery of a will. And there are numerous famous deaths due to drug overdoses, whether deliberate or not, from Janis Joplin to the Singing Nun.

Death threat

But working out exactly how many people die due to misuse of illegal drugs is difficult: generally a mention on the death certificate means the death is considered as drug-related, even if not solely due to the drug.

Taking the England and Wales figures as an example, there were 1,784 deaths in 2010 from misuse of illegal drugs, without alcohol specifically mentioned, down a bit from preceding years, but double that in 1993. The peak decade is for men in their 30s with 544 deaths in a year, that’s about one for every 680 men in this age band. Almost exactly half the total deaths (791) were due to heroin or morphine. Cocaine was associated with 144 deaths, amphetamine 56, while those involving ecstasy (MDMA) fell to only eight after averaging around 50 a year from 2001 to 2008.

If we use the British Crime Survey estimates of the number of users, we can get a rough idea of the annual risk of using different drugs in micromorts (that is, the chance in a million of dying).

Averaging over the period between 2003 and 2007, cocaine and crack cocaine were involved in 169 deaths per year, and so an estimated 793,000 users were each exposed to an average of 213 micromorts a year, or around four a week. Ecstasy’s 541,000 users experienced around 91 micromorts a year each: the 2003 market for Ecstasy has been estimated as 4.6 tonnes, corresponding to around 14,000,000 tablets, or an average of around 26 per user. This translates to around 3.5 micromorts per tablet.

Cannabis rarely directly leads to death, but its estimated 2,800,000 users suffered an average of 16 associated deaths per year, which is 6 micromorts a year. The average of 766 heroin-related deaths a year comes out as 19,700 micromorts per year – 54 a day – but this will be an underestimate.

But there are many other harmful effects apart from death: for example, it’s been estimated that smokers of cannabis are about 2.6 times more likely to have a psychotic-like experience than non-smokers. Apart from the risks of dependence and withdrawal, heroin users may get HIV or hepatitis from non-sterile needles, or abscesses and poisoning with contaminants. Not forgetting the standard effect of opiates on chronic constipation.

Risk status

So how can we compare the harms of different drugs, including legal ones such as alcohol and tobacco? A study published in 2010 looked at harms to users, such as mortality, damage to physical and mental health, dependence, and loss of resources and relationships, as well as harms to society, such as injury of others, crime, environmental damage, family adversities, international damage, economic cost and effects on the community. Each drug was scored on each dimension, the different harms weighted according to their judged importance and a total harm score calculated.

The resulting ranking put alcohol at the top with 72, then heroin and crack cocaine at 55 and 54, tobacco was 6th at 26, and ecstasy almost at the bottom of the list with nine, in spite of it being a Class A drug in the UK. This was controversial, with one national UK tabloid newspaper proclaiming that the main author, Professor David Nutt, was a ‘dangerous man’.

Even more controversial than comparing illegal and legal drugs, is to compare illegal drugs with ‘wholesome’ activities. Again it was Nutt, then head of the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), who wrote a paper comparing ecstasy with ‘equasy’, the addiction to horse-riding, claiming that these were both voluntary leisure activities of young people, and of comparable dangers. He did not stay as head of the ACMD for much longer.

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The seven ages of drug addiction: The highs and the lows by those who experienced them

Alcohol, LSD, cannabis, heroin, Ecstasy, cocaine and now legal highs – seven drugs that encapsulate seven decades. But how did they feel to those who took them? And do they have any regrets?

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Grange Hill's kids asked Britain to "Just Say No" to drugs more than 25 years ago, but it seems their plea fell on deaf ears. One in three adults in England and Wales have used illicit drugs in their lifetime, according to the latest British Crime Survey, with almost 3 million adults breaking the law to pop a pill, roll a joint, inject heroin or snort a line of cocaine, among other narcotics, in the past year alone.

But long before Zammo Maguire brought the issue of addiction to mainstream children's TV, drug use in the UK was well under way. As Harry Shapiro, rock journalist and author of Waiting for the Man: The Story of Drugs and Popular Music, says, there have always been "tipping points for drugs down the decades": in the 1950s, when there were only a reported 317 addicts to "manufactured" drugs in Britain, the idea of the alcoholic was born a decade on, the counterculture's cherished LSD was perceived as such a threat that, in 1966, two national newspapers urged the government to outlaw it.

By 1979, cannabis use had peaked the "heroin epidemic" hit Britain's cities in the 1980s and the Trainspotting generation was born the rave scene and designer drugs of the 1990s followed and the Home Office estimated that 1.5 million Ecstasy tablets were being popped every weekend in 1995, the same year Leah Betts died four hours after taking the drug, and her haunting image made front-page news. By the noughties, the UK was branded "Europe's cocaine capital" by the UN, with the number of users rising by 25 per cent between 2008 and 2009, peaking at 1 million. k

The addiction psychiatrist and founder of the Global Drug Survey, Adam Winstock, has defined the current decade as one of "unparalleled choice", and while cocaine, Ecstasy and cannabis remain Britain's most popular drugs, new "legal highs" and other synthetic drugs are appearing on the market at the rate of one a week, warns the EU's drug agency, which says 10 per cent of Brits have tried them.

The Home Affairs Committee is currently exploring government policy and sanctions regarding drugs, and earlier this year heard the comedian, actor and renowned former user Russell Brand tell them that there remains a "wilful ignorance" about just what fuels Britain's addiction. Admitting that his life had been blighted by excess, Brand added that drug addiction was primarily "an illness".

Do others agree? We asked those who have been affected by each decade's drug of choice since the 1950s. Some credit them with opening up their world others nearly had their lives destroyed while the rest took them for fun. But what they all agree is that if Grange Hill's motto is falling on deaf ears, Britain needs to find new ways of broaching the conversation.

1950s Alcohol

James McPherson, 76, from Glasgow, had his first drink in 1952. Six decades later and after suffering blackouts, broken bones and hallucinations as a result of his alcoholism, he says he thinks he has his relationship with the substance under control.

"I had my first drink at 17 it's what everyone did. As far as Glasgow was concerned, all the fathers seemed to drink at the weekend. There didn't seem to be many drugs in Glasgow then – I never saw anyone with hash. Maybe in London, but not where I was.

"Pubs used to shut at about 9.30pm, so people would throw down a couple of whiskeys at the last minute. It's a wee bit different now, I don't see that many drunken people – nobody can afford to drink seven days a week and the pubs are open all day.

"I would binge a bit, but I was in the Merchant Navy then, so I couldn't drink too much. Then, at around 23, I got married and started out as a bus driver and then a lorry driver, which I did for 25 years. At night I used to buy a bottle of whiskey on the way home. I would sit across the road from my house and swallow about a quarter. I didn't know what kind of mood my wife would be in and it calmed me down. Then it went to half-bottles, and then to one bottle a day.

"It didn't interfere with my work I always turned up. But then 10 years ago or so, it started to become more of a problem. I think that anybody who drinks a bottle a day is an alcoholic – I used to spend up to £80 a week on whiskey. Then I started having blackouts after drinking. They started before I knew it was happening – I got cracked ribs, and a broken pelvis and collarbone at different times. They didn't last for long, about 10 seconds, but they were frightening. Then I started getting the DTs [delirium tremens] and seeing things such as beetles on the ceiling when I was in bed.

"Now, I have check-ups at my house, but I've cut down on my drinking – I bought a bottle of whiskey last week and only just finished it. It's just a habit now. It's funny how the best things in the world, drinking and smoking, bring you more trouble than anything else."

Gregory Sams, 63, from north London, is an author, yet is best-known for inventing the vegeburger. He credits LSD with opening up his interest in organic foods – he co-founded Whole Earth Foods with his brother.

"On my very first acid trip in Berkeley, California, in 1966, I climbed to the top of Strawberry Canyon, overlooking San Francisco Bay. I stared into the sun for 20 minutes and had a perception of it as a life form, as a conscious being. I was 17 then, but my recent book, Sun of God, now explores this theme. LSD has been one of the most valuable guides in my life. It helped make me aware of who I was and what I needed to do.

"I took it half-a-dozen times when I was in America and then took it some more when I was back in England, during the Summer of Love. It was the fundamental engine of the 1960s. At that point, it was a closed, regimented and black-and-white culture. Perhaps now our culture has blossomed there is not so much need for LSD, but at the time it kick-started the inner awareness that led people into areas such as natural healing, yoga and meditation.

"For me, it was about food. Insights from LSD helped me recognise the importance of what we eat. [My brother] Craig and I started the first organic, natural food company, Harmony Foods. Our macrobiotic restaurant Seed, near Paddington, was the only restaurant serving the countercultural scene of the 1960s. It wasn't just us various people around the planet at that time manifested new 'green' additions to the culture as a result of their expanded vision.

"LSD has been demonised to a high degree, but rarely by those who took it. I am aware of a few people who 'lost it' on an acid trip and never fully came back perhaps they triggered a pre-existing condition. That is sad, but compared with alcohol, speed, heroin or Valium, I think there have been minimal negative effects.

"I rediscovered acid in the 1990s and occasionally revisit. I have had three difficult trips in my life that I'd rather not have had, but they did no damage. I believe our cultural evolution has been sadly diminished by prohibition of the psychedelic experience."

1970s cannabis

Peter Reynolds, 54, from Dorset, is a writer and party leader of Clear, the political group calling for cannabis law reform in Britain. He has been smoking cannabis since he was 14 years old and now smokes daily. While he says cannabis culture has changed over the past four decades, he believes it is still misunderstood.

"It was 1971, and I was 14 and on my way home from school when I was first introduced to cannabis. I met my friend and he said, 'I've got it.' We went back to his bedroom and rolled a joint on an LP. It was probably Bob Dylan or the Rolling Stones. I remember being violently sick.

"When I finished my O-levels, eight friends and I went to Amsterdam. I was supposed to come back and do my A-levels, but instead I stayed there for two years. At 18, I decided I'd better grow up and get a job. I found my way into advertising sales and very quickly became a copywriter. Certainly within the advertising business, cannabis use was rife. Everybody was using it. Not just as a relaxant, but as a way of helping creativity. We would go off to a hotel with a brief from a client. We would sit around rolling joints, coming up with great ideas.

"It was very much a product of the time – for a lot of young people, it was the forbidden fruit. Now, it has become much more mainstream. I would only smoke then once or twice a week. I don't think it hindered my career.

"Some people do abuse it and if you start smoking at 14, any psychoactive substance has the potential for harm – your brain is still developing. But I think life is full of risks. From an early age, I was outraged at the law saying I couldn't use it. I saw it an infringement of my personal liberty.

"The best solution, in my opinion, is to regulate it. Then you can control it. The only ID a dealer needs to see now is a £20 note. If you had to go to a shop [to buy it], you would no doubt need to prove how old you were. If you had difficulties, you could get advice about it. Prohibition is not control at all. It's just shoving it under the carpet and trying to ignore it a foolhardy idea."

1980s heroin

Erin, 42, is founder and editor of "Black Poppy", a national magazine by and for people who use drugs. She lives in London, and is one of an estimated 400 people in England who are prescribed heroin on the NHS.

"It was 1985, I was 15, and there was a little crew of us in Australia discovering drugs. I saw pictures of androgynous youths with fags hanging out of their mouths, looking scruffy but satisfied – like they knew something I didn't. I found that really intriguing, as though they had stuck two fingers up at society. My plan was to experiment with life for a couple of years and then buckle down and go to university and get a job.

"I wasn't that keen on heroin initially it wasn't until an opportunity came up to deal some that I developed a habit. By the time I came to the UK, in 1989, my mum thought k I was going to die. The woolly image of the slightly vulnerable but untouchable heroin addict was an illusion: in reality you're feared and distrusted.

"I got into prostitution I thought work gave me a bit of control it allowed me to pay for heroin when I wanted it. You need three or four hits a day, a little bit more if you can get it. It was 1995 when I was diagnosed with HIV. I hadn't met anyone with it in Australia but Europe was in the middle of an HIV epidemic.

"I tried everything to get off it. About seven years in, I sought treatment. I found there was no treatment equality, only unenlightened, punitive treatment regimes. After about 10 years of trying the 'one-size-fits-all' treatment approach, I went to see a private doctor. He was the first to ask me what it was I thought I needed.

"It was a revelation – I knew what I needed and it was heroin on prescription. I have a new doctor with whom I share a dignified and trusting relationship. I see her every fortnight and pick up pharmaceutically prepared diamorphine (heroin) from my local chemist, and for the first time I can really contribute and participate fully in life. Once you take heroin out of the black market, everything changes – the anxiety and fear dissipate.

"I know now I'll come off this prescription – I don't want to be dependent for years to come, but we must have these options today."

1990s ecstasy

Mark Donne, 36, is a freelance film-maker from east London. He grew up in Margate, Kent, and was introduced to Ecstasy through the rave scene. While some of his friends became addicted to narcotics and ended up in prison, he ended his relationship with illicit drugs two-and-a-half years ago when he became a father for the first time.

"Drugs were ubiquitous in Margate in the 1990s, as in other coastal towns in Britain. We were the fourth-biggest unemployment black spot in Europe, there were fraught social problems, but paradoxically, there were stricter regulations in pubs than at raves. The first time I experienced Ecstasy, I paid £15 a tablet now it's as cheap as acid.

"Drinking and smoking were hardwired into family life – mine and my friends' parents were always in the pub – but there was a mythology around the drug that went hand-in-hand with the new music. My first time on Ecstasy was also the first time I encountered any type of dance music – I had the natural rhythm of a lamppost.

"Overnight, little shops became record stores, with decks. Soon, you didn't want to be sitting in the park drinking a cider, you wanted to be with the crowd. I would mainly take Ecstasy at weekends it became a very regular thing. Any kind of anxiety we might have had that it was illegal just evaporated. Everyone was testing these things out.

"I remember Leah Betts's death. It sent shockwaves through my peer group – but they diminished before long and it didn't stop me taking the drug. My memory of my years taking Ecstasy is fond, but by 21, I got quite bored with the scene – I was never terribly into dance music.

"Most people I grew up with had an extremely problematic relationship with drugs. It's clichéd to say that you go from Ecstasy to cocaine and heroin and crack, but three out of seven in my group of friends became heroin addicts and went to prison.

"When I had my daughter, I thought it was a decent time to guillotine my relationship with drugs. If my daughter told me she was thinking about trying drugs, I'd urge her to do so in the most responsible way. In society, we're so far away from having a grown-up discourse about drugs."

2000s cocaine

Sarah Graham, 43, from Surrey, sits on the Government's Advisory Council on Misuse of Drugs and is director of her own addiction and holistic health company. The former TV director is also a recovering cocaine user, who says her addiction got so bad at the start of the Millennium that it almost killed her.

"The first line of cocaine I did changed everything. It took away all the nagging insecurity, or low self-worth. I was at the Groucho Club, having just started a job at the BBC, when somebody asked me if I wanted to go to the toilet for a line. I felt like it might help me feel a part of that world.

"It was seen as exclusive – a Gucci-like drug. From the word go, I didn't want the feeling to stop. That first night, I ended up knocking on the door of the person who gave it to me, asking for more. For a long time, I just binged on the weekends, taking anything from one gram to three a night.

"When I went freelance, I was spending at least half of what I earnt on cocaine and alcohol – £600 a week. I always thought if I turned up to work and did my job, I didn't have a problem.

"I hit a physical wall when I was working on The Big Breakfast. I used cocaine to fuel my work addiction and would skip sleep and food. I had to take two weeks off – it was then I knew something had to change.

"I had struggled to stay sober all summer, and then my dad died in November 2001. I got through his funeral, but the night after, I called my dealer. I descended into hell and was snorting a line every minute for 24 hours. By December, I ended up in treatment. I felt like all the colour had been sucked out of my life I was an absolute suicidal mess. It was the final thing – it blew apart all my denial.

"I spent seven-and-a-half months at the Priory. Treatment cost me in excess of £25,000 and I had to sell my house. But it exposed me to really good therapy and helped me understand the cost attached to addiction. Lots of people who'd never dream of taking heroin, another Class-A substance, take cocaine. I now know that every time I took it was like playing Russian roulette.

"I have been given the gift of recovery and want to support other people and help them understand the trauma behind addiction."

2010s legal highs

Jay (not her real name), 25, is a freelance writer from Nottingham. She has been taking drugs recreationally for more than a decade, but in the past year has experimented with so-called "legal highs" and other synthetic drugs. She has taken Mephedrone, known as MCAT or Meow Meow, which was banned in 2010, as well as synthetic drugs 2C-I and 2C-B, whose effects are akin to LSD and Ecstasy.

"Legal highs were big on the Nottingham scene last year – there were new ones coming out all the time. It's actually insane, they tweak one chemical compound and, boom, it's legal. I don't particularly like them and I try to stay away from them now. People lose themselves on them and you don't know the long-term effect on your mental health.

"MCAT is kind of like a mixture of cocaine and Ecstasy – you feel really loved-up for about half-an-hour. I could take a gram or two in a single night, but I knew people who would take bags of the stuff – up to four grams a night, for three or four days continuously. It's moreish.

"Then MCAT stopped being so available, but there was 2C-I or 2C-B, which you can eat or snort. The high lasts about an hour-and-a-half and you get visuals like you do on acid. But the day after, I felt awful. Three days later, I wasn't very pleasant to be around. I was in such a foul mood, and some people I knew became absolute monsters.

"I started out taking stuff at 13, and back then, things seemed to be a lot better-quality, cleaner. Now, a lot of people are trying to make money and overcome legal obstacles, and because of that we're getting a lot of crap. Whether it's legal doesn't hold any scope with me – it's about how it makes me feel in the long term. MCAT seems to be the one that really gripped people, but a few of us got really concerned. Some people completely lost control of their emotions."

For more information and advice about drugs, see talktofrank.com, addaction.org.uk and drugscope.org.uk


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T he song came gushing out like an open hydrant on a hot summer day, but for Natalie Cole, it was a complicated kind of high. Minutes before she heard her breakthrough hit, “This Will Be,” on the radio for the first time in 1975, she had scored a heroin fix and was tripping down 113th Street in Harlem. Drugs were a recent mainstay she started using heavily in college, during the substance-fueled psychedelic era (she still managed to get her degree, in psychology). Music, meanwhile, was her birthright — after all, she was the daughter of Nat King Cole, one of the most beloved singers of the 20th century. Growing up in the exclusive Hancock Park section of Los Angeles, she could wander into the living room and find the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Sinatra gathered round the family piano. Now that she had a big hit of her own, fame was proving to be a stronger stimulant. She kicked heroin, married one of her producers, had a son, had more hits, appeared on “The Tonight Show.”

But as it turned out, almost every transcendent moment across her four-decade career would be somehow shadowed, asterisk-affixed. She was criticized as an Aretha Franklin sound-alike who wasn’t Aretha Franklin. Or, she was already passé, a soul singer when the genre was being eclipsed by disco. Or, she was cashing in on her father’s legacy, still just the “daughter of.” And so her impressive early streak — three Grammys, six consecutive gold or platinum albums and the riches they brought in — ended up leading her right back to drugs, this time the L.A. cocaine culture. “It was like a damn dip for crackers,” she wrote in her memoir “Angel on My Shoulder.” By the time she escaped in the early ’80s, her years as “the base queen,” as she was known, had cost her not one but two recording contracts, her first marriage and almost her voice and son, who fell into a pool while she was on a binge and was rescued by a couple who worked for her. In her memoirs she claimed to have narrowly escaped death herself at least half a dozen times before she was 35.

From that point, she stayed clean, but sobriety didn’t make her more risk-averse, at least in terms of her career. In 1991 she embarked on “Unforgettable . With Love,” an album of songs her father had made famous, mostly in the 1940s and ’50s, with lush, period string and horn arrangements. Anchored by the “duet from the beyond” with him on the title track (he died in 1965), the very uncontemporary album was a way of both paying tribute to him and exorcising his ghost, and a surprise runaway success besides, eventually going seven-times-platinum and sweeping the Grammy Awards. But as had become customary for Cole, a backlash soon followed — how could this collection of ancient songs be best album in the year of Nirvana and N.W.A.? (Though those songs were no more ancient then than many still-ubiquitous Beatles, Dylan and Stones tracks are today.) Partly because of “Unforgettable . With Love,” the Grammy voting rules were changed, essentially leading to the creation of a Grammy electoral college that reduced the influence of older voters. A particularly stinging rebuke, though, may have been a “Saturday Night Live” skit titled “Unforgivable,” in which Cole (Ellen Cleghorne) sings further spectral duets with the likes of Judy Garland (Mike Myers) and Mama Cass (Chris Farley).

Cole’s passing, announced on New Year’s Day, was just the beginning of a cascade of musical loss (even in death she was somewhat overshadowed), and yet as one giant after another departed, hers was still the music I craved most. As I scanned the titles in my collection, I was reminded how, whether she was singing R&B, pop, jazz or standards, she left it all in the grooves: There was the joy bomb of “This Will Be” the Bowie/“Fame”-like groove of “Sophisticated Lady,” only with sharper jabs and better footwork the scatting whoosh of “Mr. Melody” and the sustained elegance of “The Very Thought of You.” A sassy hit cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac.”

But the album I reached for first was “Dangerous,” an obscure 1985 release and her first after she emerged from rehab. Reviewing the record for a local paper at the time, I youngly but not insincerely claimed that Cole was the best singer in pop music. “That’s a brave call,” said the editor, but he wasn’t buying it: 1985 was the year of Whitney rising and a period of reascendance for Aretha, Chaka, Patti, Tina. (The review never ran.) Listening to the album more than 30 years later, I could hear how, well, forgettable the tracks were, unworthy of the worst Brat Pack soundtrack. Yet I was still struck by how Cole could be a vocal shoehorn, able to slide meaningful phrases into even this synthy muck. She had to know the material was beneath her, yet she stared it down the way she stared down addiction, or everyone who said she was nothing more than a knockoff. Maybe I was on to something way back then. Only now there was no asterisk in sight.


The highs and lows of drugs in Springfield

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The News-Leader obtained data from the Springfield Police Department on how much heroin, meth, cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy and LSD its investigators have seized over the last six years. (Photo: News-Leader illustration) Buy Photo

Investigators raided a Springfield home earlier this year expecting a big haul.

A nearly three-year investigation culminated on Feb. 29 when, according to court documents, investigators rushed into a garage on East McDaniel Street and found 12 pounds of meth and more than six pounds of heroin hidden in a truck.

While seizures like that don't happen often, data obtained by the News-Leader shows the amount of drugs seized by the Springfield Police Department's investigative units has been increasing over the last six years.

Lt. Eric Reece with the Springfield Police Department, said seizure numbers are generally a good reflection of drug use in the community, and it's clear that meth and heroin from out of state have made inroads in Springfield.

The News-Leader obtained data from the Springfield Police Department on how much heroin, meth, cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy and LSD its investigators have seized over the last six years.

Springfield officials say drugs are linked to all types of crime in southwest Missouri from stealing to domestic violence. Springfield police say investigating the people who import and sell drugs in the city is a priority — and it's something Reece said they are getting better at.

The national opioid crisis has not missed Springfield.

In 2015, Springfield police seized more heroin than in the previous three years combined. And through the first nine months of 2016, they seized more than 10 times last year's total.

While a big chunk of the 2016 spike can be attributed to that Feb. 29 bust and another nearly half-pound seizure, Reece said there's certainly more heroin on the streets of Springfield today than there was five years ago.

Heroin seized by Springfield police during a recent investigation. (Photo: Springfield Police Department)

"The increase is a concern," Reece said. "We do spend a lot of investigation time on that, and I think that plays out in our stats."

Reece said heroin cases are a priority for his detectives in the special investigations section because the drug has reportedly been responsible for at least 21 deaths in Greene County over the last two years.

Marlin Martin is the regional director for Behavioral Health Group, a local provider of opioid addiction treatment. Martin said there are about 460 patients consistently receiving treatment from Behavioral Health Group in Springfield, and the company is preparing to open a second location on the north side of town.

"I think the problem is only continuing to skyrocket and blossom in our community," Martin said. "The demand for our services has not decreased at all."

Martin said Behavioral Health Group's patients tell him they have little trouble finding heroin in Springfield.

A Drug Enforcement Agency spokesman told the News-Leader this summer the Ozarks has a reputation nationwide for meth, particularly the homemade variety.

But while the reputation — and the demand — are there, Reece said Springfield is no longer a producer of domestic meth.

Springfield police say they have recovered only seven meth labs in the city this year, compared to 108 in 2011. But the total weight of meth seized by Springfield investigators this year is more than 10 times what they took off the streets in 2011.

Meth seized by Springfield police as part of a recent investigation. (Photo: Springfield Police Department)

Reece said the meth found in Springfield today is usually a high-quality variety made in Mexico and imported to the United States.

Reece said he does not think meth use has increased tenfold over the last six years. He said the reason investigators are seizing more of the drug is because the current system of dealers bringing meth in from out of state lends itself to multi-pound seizures, like the one on Feb. 29.

"Our meth has stayed pretty stable," Reece said. "If you see a big jump one year compared to another, it is probably because of one investigation where we ended up seizing a large amount of that drug."

One of the biggest year-to-year spikes in the data was the amount of cocaine seized by investigators in 2016.

Police say they have seized 626 grams of cocaine this year after taking only 17 grams in 2015.

Reece said, however, the 2016 spike is more of a fluke driven by a one-time seizure than an indication that dealers are flooding the Springfield market with cocaine this year.

He said police seized about a pound of cocaine this summer as part of a case that is still being investigated.

Sgt. Dan Banasik, a Missouri State Highway Patrol supervising sergeant for narcotics, was the lead investigator in 2011 when the feds took down a multi-pound cocaine distribution ring that was operating in Springfield and Nixa.

Banasik said since 2011 he hasn't noticed much cocaine in the local drug market. He said there isn't much demand here for the drug, and he agreed this year's spike in cocaine is likely an anomaly.

A spokeswoman for Cox Hospital also said the medical staff has not noticed an increase this year in cocaine-related hospital visits.

Over the last six years, the drug that police have seized the most, in terms of weight, is marijuana.

Reece said marijuana is the drug that officers encounter most often while doing police work, but it's not the highest priority for the special investigation units.

"We do some large-scale marijuana interdiction work," Reece said. "But it's not our focus. We focus more on the harder scale drugs like meth and heroin."

Marijuana seized by Springfield Police as part of a recent investigation. (Photo: Springfield Police Department)

The biggest year for marijuana seizures was 2013 when Springfield police collected more than 185 pounds of pot

Banasik told the News-Leader last year the Springfield market had been inundated with high-grade marijuana from Colorado and other states where the drug is legal for recreational use. The Missouri State Highway Patrol also reported that it had seen an exponential increase over the last few years in the seizures of marijuana-infused food products known as edibles.

According to a survey from the Missouri Department of Mental Health, teen marijuana use in Greene County has fluctuated over the last four years. In 2012, about 24 percent of high school seniors reported they had used marijuana in the last month, that number dropped to 16 percent in 2014 and then moved to 22 percent this year.

LSD and ecstasy

Reece said LSD and ecstasy aren't the highest priorities for his investigators, simply because they don't see much of either drug.

There have, however, been some standout years for LSD and ecstasy seizures.

In 2014, Springfield police say investigators seized more than 11 pounds of LSD after finding a total of 1 gram in the three previous years.

Similarly, Springfield investigators found more than 300 grams of ecstasy in 2011 and have seized a total of only 54 grams of the drug in the five years since.

Reece said those spikes were likely the result of a couple of big seizures and not a reflection of increased use of the drugs in Springfield.

"We get the occasional hit on those," Reece said. "But there's no upward trend toward LSD or ecstasy use."

In total over the last six years, the Springfield Police Department's investigative units seized 251,520 grams of marijuana, 81,713 grams of meth, 1,122 grams of cocaine, 4,751 grams of heroin, 6,903 grams of LSD and 372 grams of ecstasy. Once the cases are resolved, a judge will issue a destruction order, and Springfield police have the drugs incinerated.

The Greene County Medical Examiner's Office says there have been 56 confirmed drug overdose deaths in the county this year and several more cases are still pending complete results.


Opium cultivation in Mozambique

In July 1877 an unpleasant surprise greeted British Imperial consul, Captain James Frederick Elton, as he led an expedition through the Zambezi valley in Mozambique. An agricultural experiment was underway, and it seemed to be thriving. The enterprise was Portuguese the crop was opium.

This was a problem for him because there was open contestation between European countries hungry to colonise the continent. Elton recognised that active farming in this region was bad news for British interests and claim-making.

Worse, the healthy crop of Papaver somniferum heralded a new source of competition with British Indian opium that monopolised the lucrative Chinese market.

In 1874, the Mozambique Opium Cultivation and Trading Company launched its experiment with £180,000, a concession of 50,000 acres of Portuguese crown land and exclusive rights to duty-free export for 12 years.

In fact, growing opium in the Zambezi valley proved a short-lived venture.

In 1884, poppy cultivation was ended by an anti-colonial uprising. Although the violence had broader aims and targets, African workers were motivated to destroy the opium plantation because of the company’s extortion of workers through taxes and forced recruitment.

Quests to profit from opium were taken up in a different way further south.


Coke/crack with other drugs

Alcohol

Using booze together with coke or crack makes the bad effects of both worse and can give you the illusion of being sober when you’re drunk. These drugs mix together in the body with alcohol to make cocaethylene, a toxin that damages the brain, liver and heart. This is the reason for the bigger risk of sudden death in people using alcohol and coke or crack together.

Speed, crystal meth, mephedrone, ecstasy, or Viagra

Mixing these drugs with coke or crack means even more pressure on the heart and circulatory system, with a bigger risk of stroke and heart attack.

Anti-depressants

Taking cocaine or crack when you’re on some antidepressants can cause ‘serotonin syndrome’. This could be dangerous and causes symptoms such as a fast heart beat, sweating, muscle spasms and not being able to sleep. You need to seek urgent medical help if this happens to you. If you’re on antidepressants check with a doctor before using these drugs.

HIV drugs

As the body uses different pathways to processes these two drugs, there are no known dangerous interactions. However, regular use of cocaine has been linked to poor adherence to HIV treatment.


A Word From Verywell

Like any addictive substance, the cocaine high can make someone feel really good, giving them feelings of pleasure, confidence, and energy beyond what they normally experience. But like any addictive substance, it can also have very unpleasant and even harmful short-term and long-term effects.

Many cocaine users are reluctant to stop because it feels good—even when they know it's bad for them. The best way to stay out of that trap of addiction is to avoid drug use altogether. If someone you know has become addicted to cocaine, investigate ways to help them.


Watch the video: Η εξομολόγηση της Μαρίας Ελένης Λυκουρέζου για την κοκαϊνη στην Αυτοψία Μέρος Α (May 2022).