In the weeks leading up to Boris Johnson’s decision to enter the UK into COVID-19 lockdown on March 23, reports abounded of British people stockpiling their favourite drug(s). With supply lines at risk due to travel restrictions, the threat of shortages meant people were picking up at least as much, if not more than before. “More people are buying coke because they are in their houses, bored,” one dealer told VICE at the time.
Two months into the lockdown, you can still get whatever drug you want delivered to your door. But has the notoriously hedonistic British public’s attitude toward drugs changed during that time? Are people taking loads of acid and exploring the mind? Smoking a load of weed? Taking loads of ket to avoid doing any uni work? VICE spoke to people across different drug categories to get a flavour for what’s been going on.
PARTY DRUGS (COCAINE, MDMA)
Party drugs like cocaine and MDMA are still floating around – after all, the UK’s proclivity for snorting coke meant record traces of the drug were found in the Thames in 2019. But with the UK’s main hoovering holes of bars, clubs, pubs, football terraces and gig venues all closed, recreational use has become more functional.
Sam*, 25, took some coke last weekend to stay up and watch the UFC Heavyweight fight between Alistair Overeem and Walt Harris. “The fights don’t start until around 4:30 AM, UK time – so I thought I would get a few lines to perk me up and save me from falling asleep like usual,” he said.
Overall, however, he says he’s using a lot less than before lockdown. “As everything’s closed I don’t really see much point. Unless I was having a drink in the house, which isn’t a regular occurrence as I have young kids.”
In some cases, people are using the abundance of free time to experiment. Sarah*, 27, took MDMA for the first time, two weeks into lockdown. “My partner has used it previously on a number of occasions, usually with friends, but I had felt too 'scared' to try it. Lockdown presented a time when we could just be in the flat, in a safe and quiet space, to see how I liked it.”
She continues: “We never really had the time to set aside a night for that – we're very busy people and I can't remember the last time we weren't out on a weekend.”
Psychedelics expand your mind, man, and so a bountiful amount of free time and fuck all else to do means they go hand in hand with lockdown. But people aren’t just taking them to get blasted for somewhere between 10-12 hours on a weekday. The reasoning can also be therapeutic.
Max, 26, took acid for the first time a year ago and started to explore it more during lockdown. “The idea of tripping in my living room was a nightmare – but suddenly it was the only option. I live in a small flat with two of my closest friends. We're three boys who sometimes don't say everything we mean. But a few trips here and there throughout quarantine have been a great excuse to let it all out.
“There's a psychedelic side to it that's fun, but it's definitely played a big role in balancing my mental health during lockdown,” he said. He cites how the effects helped overcome boredom (“A tab later and I can't wait to go into my bathroom and stare at my tiles”) while also bringing him and his two friends closer.
The downtime has been ideal for stoners. What else better to do than get blazed without one shred of responsibility? Bliss. But much like cocaine, MDMA and acid, frequent and infrequent smokers alike are all turning toward the drug for a more functional, curative quality than before.
Harry*, 26, had given up smoking, but picked it up again during lockdown. “I ordered some of that [butane hash] oil off the deep web because I thought [the lockdown] might last for a while, and it would be good to have something if I wanted to get on it,” he says. The idea of having a full-on blowout during lockdown didn’t feel right, but the weed was able to offer soft palliative care.
“My insomnia came back really bad while in lockdown – but I embraced it. I go for walks at two in the morning with no one around, and while I’m high it’s really enjoyable. I live in a flat with no garden and [smoking up and going for a walk] makes it feel like I’ve found a way to have a bit of freedom.”
India, 18, has similarly found her intake go up since we’ve been in lockdown – primarily due to the stress relief of smoking. “I’ve always struggled with mental illness so I learned a lot of ways to cope with things – but this situation is so different to anything we normally deal with that it seems like there isn’t really a good way to just chill out and relax. However, I find weed does really help – not just because of the high, but the whole experience can be very relaxing.”
“Rolling a joint and watching some TV while having a smoke always makes me feel better no matter what’s going on, so it’s been perfect recently.”
Of course, pub or no pub, Britain’s biggest wreck-heads will no doubt be getting on it like they would previously. But the introduction of the lockdown gives concrete proof to what many drug users have always known to be true – that drugs can be instruments used to improve or ease a situation, as long as they're imbibed responsibly.
* Names have been changed