As a New Zealander, the closest I had ever got to cocaine was during a brief encounter with some businessmen in early-hours Auckland. But when I moved to London it was easier to get than a curry pie from BP Putaruru.
New Zealand's small market, geographical isolation, and the cheap price of methamphetamine has mostly locked cocaine out. Cocaine seizures vary greatly from year to year, with the larger amounts seized at the border generally destined for the Australian market. In 2014 New Zealand Customs seized a grand total of 10,161 grams of cocaine, way more than the 229 grams they nabbed in 2013, but less than 16,304 grams seized in 2012.
According to the NZ Drug Foundation, only 0.6 per cent of Kiwis have got their hands on cocaine in the last year.
This could be why, when Kiwis move to London, we usually go a bit coke-crazy. There cocaine seems to be used by everyone from bankers to bartenders, and to avoid it you need to just about never leave your room.
We asked New Zealanders living in London, and one who recently returned, about what moving did to their coke intake.
HANNAH, 26, Artist and restaurant manager
VICE: Hi Hannah, when was the first time you used cocaine?
Hannah: When I first moved to London I was put in contact with some friends of friends. I went to a warehouse to meet them and party with them and ended up living there while I was trying to find a place. One weekend they had some friends over and they were all doing coke and kept on it for about 48 hours straight. I remember thinking this is literally what junkies are like, my new friends are junkies. I was really scandalised by it, but also intrigued and I must have done it for the first time sometime around then.
How often do you do a line now?
It's just a party drug for me. I've done it to stay awake and make out, but never for anything actually productive.
Why do you think New Zealanders get into it so heavily in London?
Thinking about it from a New Zealand point of view, we've come all this way and spent so much money to be here I guess it's a slice of the London pie which we are all so hungry for. We want the full experience. So I guess some Kiwis might not imagine themselves as drug users but it's sort of part of the ceremony isn't it? You move to London, you find a flat in East London; you have BBQs in London Fields, pick your favourite bar in Dalston, and split a gram every Friday with your new English mates.
Have you ever had any bad experiences with cocaine?
To be honest coke is one of the chillest drugs for me. I never have any huge side effect. But there is a huge difference between good coke and bad coke. Cheap stuff makes me go quiet and insular while other people are dancing. If that doesn't happen then I usually need to bail out. But with good coke it's completely different. I party hard! Also, cheap coke gives me a terrible headache. Like, my whole nasal package all the way to the back of my eye sockets has a tube that is a millimetre too wide lodged in it. I fucking hate cheap coke.
MICHAEL*, 31, ENGINEER, BACK IN NEW ZEALAND AFTER LIVING IN LONDON FOR FOUR YEARS.
Hi Michael, how often would you do cocaine in London?
Most weekends, it was always at parties and is a better high to alcohol so I preferred it.
Do you miss it? Do you use cocaine now in New Zealand?
Yes and no. I loved using it, and I miss how cheap it was: £60 for a half-decent gram in London and $450 NZD for shit. I don't use it in Auckland like I did in London, maybe just on the odd occasion. I hadn't used it until I moved to London.
Why do you think so many Kiwis take to using cocaine when they live in London?
You get a high and you are not sloppy like you are when you're drunk. You socialise more and interact a lot easier, especially when you are well out of your comfort zone—which a lot of Kiwis are when they are overseas. And it's cheap.
Have you ever had any negative experiences with cocaine?
Coming down can be pretty rough, but I was always able to function, and I never missed work or anything like that. As far as buying it, dealing with London drug dealers, it's so normal there I never felt like I was in any danger.
"I think I underestimated how easy it would be to get." Image by Flickr user Benjamin Ellis.
SARAH*, 24, ADMINISTRATOR
Hi Sarah, have your opinions on cocaine changed since moving to London?
I had never used it in New Zealand. Before I got here I had very high hopes for coke because my dad had always told me it was the best drug in the world, but I think the coke now is probably very different to the coke he was doing in London 35 years ago.
How hasn't it lived up to your expectations?
I think you expect it to give you a different type of high or experience or to make you feel something you haven't felt before, but really it just heightens your senses and makes you not want to go to sleep.
How often do you use it?
Every weekend. I think I underestimated how easy it would be to get, which is why it is so easy to have a coke bender every weekend.
Have you ever considered the darker aspects around how it affects your health, or where it comes from - an industry rampant with violence and human misery?
After my weekend just gone I definitely considered the darker aspects mental health-wise. I was £50 down, got home at 6 AM on Saturday and at 9 AM on Sunday morning I felt like absolute shit. Then you are also going to feel like that until at least Wednesday. As well as where it comes from, that is something I am starting to think about more.