The Couples Who Spent Lockdown Doing Coke Together as 'Therapy'

“We have more honest, intimate conversations – like about whether we want kids or not.”
illustrated by Lily Blakely
Couples Cocaine Lockdown Coke Drugs Usage
Image: Lily Blakely

It's no secret that over the past year or so – thanks to lockdown and more general pandemic stress – a lot of couples have been getting on each other's tits. That said, this hasn't led to as many break ups as you might assume. In 2020, one YouGov survey found that only 11 percent of couples in the UK wanted to part ways, while 26 percent thought their relationship had actually improved. Data for 2021 so far appears to be non-existent, but if it helps, my husband is still doing my nut in.


While some couples screamed into their pillows as a way of coping together during lockdown or, if afforded such luxury, just gave each other space around the house, others have found more unconventional ways of managing: taking loads of coke together and chatting it out, apparently. 

“When lockdown happened, we found ourselves doing it most weekends and sometimes even during the week,” says Rachel, 24. Her and boyfriend, Tom, 27, live up north and still work from home after being furloughed last year. All the couples that VICE spoke to requested anonymity so they could speak freely about their drug use.

Rachel and Tom aren’t the only couple to have upped their coke usage after being together more regularly since the pandemic. Some have even managed to do it alongside their work from home jobs. “I would never have got fucked up on a school night before lockdown, but I found myself doing it during the day,” Sarah, 31, tells me. She lives with her partner Steve, also 31.

Taking coke on the regular is obviously not at all healthy. It “damages the cartilage, has psychological consequences and can lead to overdose cardiac arrests,” says Nuno Albuquerque, an addictions counsellor at the UK Addiction Treatment Centre. Aside from the many health risks, though, some couples tell me that getting coked up with their partner has actually had a few benefits. Or, at least, it's felt that way. 


“We don't usually make enough time for sex because we always have so much to do but when we're on coke, we can do it for hours,” says Dan, 37, who lives in rural Wales after having left London earlier this year. His husband, Ash, 36, agrees. “The first time we actually enjoyed anal together was on a bender during lockdown.”

Chatting shit for hours might seem fun while on coke, but it's also the worst (no one really wants to hear about the sci-fi film script you've decided to write literally just now). For some couples, however, these talkative coke sessions have felt almost therapeutic. “We have more honest, intimate conversations, like about whether we want kids or not,” says Rachel. “This is something we’d never broached before lockdown, but now we talk about it openly even when not on coke.”

Her boyfriend Tom agrees: “I feel like a changed man.” 

While there may be some benefits to letting loose once in a while, taking coke as a couple can also lead to one partner being more dependent or enabling the other. “Ash will keep going and stay up until midday to finish everything that's there,” says Dan, the concern in his voice palpable.

“It got to a point where I asked Dan to hide it from me, but I wanted it again later that night,” Ash says.

Rachel has also expressed some differences in their coke usage as a couple. “Tom will get some before we’ve started drinking sometimes,” she says. “He bought some last Friday without telling me, even though we'd spoken about taking some time off.” 


Alongside Dan and Rachel seeing worrying signs in their partners, Dan has also witnessed his own desire for the drug increase. “Ironically, now we're not able to do it at all, my cravings are stronger than they've ever been,” he says. He felt it necessary to move from London to a place free from triggers and Ash agreed – but the cravings haven't disappeared. 

Kate Thompson, a couples' psychotherapist who works at Tavistock Relationships says that frequent coke usage is usually a Band-Aid for deeper issues – it should not be viewed as therapy. “We're especially interested in the family systems that these people have come from. There's often an attachment trauma or deprivation in there, that then gets translated into anxiety in their own relationships,” she says. “There’s an ability to seek solace in alcohol or drug use, to have it as a kind of psychic retreat or a numbness.”

Albuquerque agrees that coke in particular can dramatically affect a relationship in unhealthy ways. “Coke usage can create impulsivity and an increased sex drive, which may seem attractive to a couple. Research has shown, however, that people on cocaine are less likely to use protection during sex. For women in particular, it can also change the menstrual cycle and for both [genders], severe mood swings.”

Treatment for couples who are misusing drugs together are often difficult to implement. They rely on both parties not only admitting they have a problem and entering a programme, but staying clean together afterwards. There are options available, however. Behavioural Couples Therapy (BCT), for example, works with both the couple and individual to combat issues such as addiction or depression.

That said, programmes like BCT are hard to come by – especially when mental health and addiction facilities in the UK are notoriously underfunded, and not everyone can afford to go private. “There's very little if any funding and that's where the government really needs to act,” Thompson says. Most addiction programmes also focus on the individual, meaning that both couples would need to attend separately to have a greater chance of combating drug issues long-term. 

As we emerge into a new post-lockdown world, it makes sense that our relationships to both drugs and our partners are bound to change. But what will happen to those who have developed a stronger taste for coke over the past year?

Despite purposefully moving to escape his triggers, Dan tells me that he's not planning on quitting anytime soon – either as a couple or on his own: “I don't feel the need,” he says, “because it's something I enjoy.”

@givemetokyo / @lilyblkly