I shouldn't have to apologise for that, and neither should you.
Image by Sam Taylor
Like any good Nottingham girl, I can sit and bosh pills till the hallucinatory cows come home. But if I have to read one more nonsense story about some celebrity checking into rehab after trying one bump of coke, I’m actually going to break into the Daily Mail’s headquarters and shit and piss on their computers so that they can’t print any more fucking shit and piss about people taking drugs.
The actor Michael Le Vell had a tough time last year. He was suspended from Coronation Street while on trial for child sex charges and has since been found not guilty. Last week, he was suspended again after he admitted to doing coke – as in the refreshing white stuff, not the syrup that rots babies if you pour it over them. Michael told the Sunday Mirror that he first tried coke during the stressful lead up to his trial: “For a few brief minutes, the first time was a relief from everything that was going on. Afterwards I felt so ashamed and I never thought I’d do it again. But I did it once more after the trial... I never thought that I was the sort of bloke who would like cocaine.”
Seriously, how much bullshit was that statement cut with? I don’t know, maybe Michael “I never thought that I was the sort of bloke who would like cocaine” Le Vell really does look down on people who take drugs. Maybe he's just playing soppy boy for the media. Who knows? We're about as capable of knowing how much crap his statement contains as we are of knowing how much levamisole was in last weekend's bag of sniff. (Answer: always far, far too much.)
I have no doubt that Michael – and other recent cocaine apologists, such as Nigella Lawson, Demi Lovato and, er, Jim Davidson – have felt pain in their lives, and that truly sucks. But are we really supposed to believe that people only do coke when they’re in mourning, or in abusive relationships, or on trial for child sex charges? Could it be that some people do a fat line of coke simply because they fancy a fat line of coke?
The other day, I was having a word with the cells in my body. Turns out they don’t actually discriminate between legal and illegal drugs, so when I drink alcohol, for example, my body tends to get intoxicated and my brain starts to function differently and my liver has shit to deal with, just like if I took any other mind-altering chemical. Fancy that! Another thing my cells don't discriminate against is the respective levels of fun that legal and illegal drugs can bring me. My body won't stop me having a good time simply because something I've put in it is banned by law, even if the conditions of that good time can differ slightly. For example, alcohol makes me dance like a twat and throw up and shag physically repulsive people in alleyways. Pills make me dance like a hot bitch and not throw up and roll around with beautiful people on random living room floors even if I don't end up having actual sticky sex with them. At the time, I'm enjoying them both – and not only because I've been temporarily mind-swiped by some terrible thing that has happened to me in my personal life.
I don't know about you, but I spent about five years getting totally mashed on just about everything. And it was all high jinx, on the whole, apart from some pretty harrowing K-holes, occasional bouts of paranoia and a monster ulcer. When I realised that it was stopping me achieving anything other than a state of synthetic ecstasy once a week, I stopped getting trashed all the time and my career has taken off. I’m not saying all drugs are brilliant and without danger – unlike the anti-drugs squad, I wouldn’t patronise you – but it was fun when I was a teen and it will be again when I've got something special to celebrate.
I remember people tearing apart Kate Moss when she got caught doing coke and even though back then I’d quite happily drop pills I found on toilet floors, I just couldn’t swallow the bullshit. Did anyone seriously not know that models do coke? And are we supposed to believe that all those journalists don’t either? Me and all my mates were taking drugs every single weekend – probably in the same rooms as models and journalists – and we were all as happy as Larry. When Labour sacked their highly qualified drugs advisor, Professor David Nutt, for pointing out that not all drugs will either rot away your arms or kill you stone dead, young ’uns like me and my pill-popping mates just rolled our big dilated moon-pupils. Tell kids that “all drugs are bad” and the only thing anyone is going to take seriously is drugs.
And why does that matter? Because drugs can be bad. Really bad. I’ve never had a heroin or crack addiction but I’ve known friends who have and I’ve seen how their lives have been destroyed. Many people reading this will be grieving for loved ones lost to drugs but the tabloids don’t really give a shit about that. They want people to take drugs – so long as they’re famous enough to bully into the kind of confession that can help them shift a few more copies on a Sunday. I was a bit frightened about writing this article myself. What if it stops me from getting work in the future? What if I’m branded an irresponsible druggy by a newspaper if my career progresses to the point where people care? These are real concerns. But why should I feel afraid to say that drugs haven’t harmed me if they haven’t? Why should people feel required to lie about their honest experiences? Does that seem like a meaningful public debate to you?
Legalise drugs. Only then can we have a useful debate. Our politicians and police aren’t supposed to have taken them, which means that our current drug policies are devised and enforced by people who apparently have no first-hand knowledge of the issue. It’s like virgins trying to ban sex by telling people that all sex is bad. I’m not saying that people need to take drugs to have an opinion on them but it’s kind of absurd to have one class of people trying to control the behaviour of another class of people who are never, ever going to take them seriously.
Drug addiction is synonymous with crime, but it needn’t be that way. In prohibition-era US, gangs became powerful selling booze but soon disappeared when it was legalised again. Today, gangs deal in guns, girls and grams. First-world drug prohibition is destroying countries like Mexico, where tens of thousands of people have been killed in drug-related violence over the last few years. So yeah, right now, if you do a line of coke you're probably still a bad person because you’re contributing to destruction in far-off lands. Yet if you drink a glass of wine, you needn’t worry about making the lives of French wine producers highly dangerous and subject to the whims of alcotraffickers and the US Alcohol Enforcement Agency. In fact, you'd probably be contributing to the bucolic bliss of the vineyard owners who so many boring English people dream of becoming. FFS, even Cliff Richard owns a vineyard.
Making alcohol illegal wouldn’t stop alcohol addiction. It would push alcoholics out of society and increase the likelihood of death while reducing opportunities for them to break the habit. So why do we do that with drugs? And why can’t we trust people to limit their drug intake the way we already trust them to control their own alcohol intake? As the Guardian's Simon Jenkins writes: "Last week the Argentine supreme court declared in a landmark ruling that it was 'unconstitutional' to prosecute citizens for having drugs for their personal use. It asserted in ringing terms that 'adults should be free to make lifestyle decisions without the intervention of the state'."
So why can’t our government trust us do make our own decisions? Are we babies? Why can’t adults put whatever substances they like into their own bodies? And why shouldn’t we have access to drugs that are controlled, taxed and pure? And does anybody fancy a big fat stonking line of coke?