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Middle-Class Women And The Use Of Cocaine

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009 Middle-Class Women And The Use Of Cocaine

Bryony Gordon of the Telegraph (02 02 09) writes that there are increasing numbers of middle-class women taking cocaine and risking their health. Notwithstanding, it has been reported that the number of women seeking treatment for cocaine addiction has doubled in the past two years.

The article is graphic and introduces the reader to one of the very real women whose life has been blighted by the use of cocaine.

“It was like I had pure joy coursing through my veins.” That is how Sarah (not her real name), a pretty management consultant in her early thirties, describes the feeling when she took her first line of cocaine at a party 10 years ago.

She adds “I felt excited and confident and fit to burst. It was as if a previously undiscovered part of my brain had been switched on, or perhaps an existing one had been switched off. Every worry just vanished as soon as I snorted it.”

The flip side of the coin had become very apparent for Sarah, three years later, this “joyful” drug had come close to devastating her health and ruining her closest relationships. It had also left her thousands of pounds in debt and close to losing her job. One thing to consider is that this lady had been privately educated and she was from the sleepy town of Marlow, Buckinghamshire.

Sarah is by no means unique, she is just one among many middle-class ladies dabbling with the very dangerous cocaine, among them the opera singer Katherine Jenkins, who has admitted taking the drug on a number of occasions several years ago, though she has now spoken out against drugs. A report by the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System has revealed that the number of women seeking help for addiction to cocaine has doubled in two years. Last year, 2,923 women and girls sought treatment for the Class A drug and the Ministry of Justice has published statistics that show a fivefold increase in the number of females cautioned for possession. The most cautions are issued in the genteel areas of Hertfordshire, Sussex and the Thames Valley.

Sarah confirms that at the height of her addiction, she was spending inexcess of £120.00 per day. She states, “Coke is everywhere,” she says (she also refers to the drug as “blow”, “sniff” and “charlie”). “You would be surprised how many people in the average office will have taken it at the weekend. I used to call it Miserable Monday, because after a weekend taking drugs everybody would be feeling the effects – you have a bit of a high but then you have a crashing low.”

Moving on and identifying some of the risks that are involved in the use of cocaine. Cocaine can cause convulsions, heart failure and the risk of strokes is doubled. When cocaine is mixed with alcohol it forms coca-ethylene, a chemical that increases the “hit” to the brain.

The direct effects is that sleep becomes difficult and thus causes anxiety, not to mention the nose bleeds that follow.

Now, at this point there is a fundamental need to ask why do thinking intelligent women take this drug?

It as been argued by David Smallwood, an addiction treatment programme manager at the Priory hospital, says that, partly, it is a matter of social acceptability. “We read about celebrities taking drugs all the time – Kate Moss, for example – and it doesn’t seem to have done her much harm. Cocaine has a glamour factor to it that other drugs don’t. It is more expensive than most narcotics and for the last few years women have had huge disposable incomes. They are doing jobs that men do in competitive environments and need to keep up.”

Friday nights were the thing for Sarah, she says, “I would share a gram with a friend. But then it was Friday and Saturday, and soon it was midweek. Before I knew it, every day I’d wake up, and have a shot of vodka and a line of coke. I am sure people noticed I was high – I had a constantly runny nose and my skin was grey – but I had long since isolated myself from anybody who actually cared.”

In reality there is a necessity in identifying heavy users. most likely Smallwood says that a heavy user “will be in financial trouble unless they are earning more than £100,000 a year. Their whole world will revolve around getting hold of their dealer. It will be the defining part of them but they won’t let you see it – they are very good at hiding it. If a friend seems manic, almost bipolar, and has an inability to settle anywhere, that is often a sign.” He adds that cocaine addicts are often also alcoholics. “The two go hand in hand. People often start taking cocaine because it sobers them up and allows them to carry on drinking.”

Cocaine is not physically addictive but psychologically the bond is difficult to break – Smallwood says that it is important to work on why addicts feel the need to use cocaine. “They are searching for highs, for pleasure, and normal people do not need to do that.”

Today, Sarah has been drug free for just over four years, having left her job to attend a rehab clinic for six months. But she tells me that not a day goes by when she doesn’t think about cocaine. “That is the addict’s fortune,” she sighs. “If I am at a party I can tell immediately when someone is on it. It is excruciating to watch but I am pleased that I can now stand there and not feel the need to get on it. I think ‘I am going to wake up and feel great instead of as if I have been hit with a truck’, and that is enough of a high for me.”

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