Pity the drug dealer over Christmas season. As we're all feigning yuletide bonhomie and going to "Xmas Drinkies" with every one of our WhatsApp groups, our nation's party suppliers are at the coalface, waiting for their doggishly loyal customers to drink three pints and submit to the inevitability of the shared festive gram.
Britain's current penchant for drugs is well documented: Home Office statistics found a record 3.7 percent of people used a Class A drug in 2018-2019, while recent analysis of waste water exposed Bristol and London as Europe's cocaine capitals, with the latter taking more drugs than Barcelona, Amsterdam and Berlin combined.
So it stands to reason that, with time on our hands and alcohol metabolising in our livers, a good number of us will be troubling our friendly neighbourhood drug peddler over the festive period. But what about the man behind the burner phone? It's his Christmas too, right? I called three dealers to find out what it's like keeping the nation's caners high over the holidays.
"I'll send a text around now to my regulars with a deal," says 30-year-old Dan, a dealer from Devon who sells cocaine, cannabis and benzodiazepines. "It'll say something like, 'Starting from 23rd through till NYE, get 3.5g of flake [cocaine] for £200 or grab a quarter of weed for £55.'"
Your more casual drug-taker might suggest that 3.5 grams actually seems like quite a lot of cocaine for one week, but Dan's had customers spend £600 with him during this period: "A lot of people will be off work until the new year: they're out drinking all the time, and if they've got gear lying about at home it gets used. That's why I don't mind giving deals: often they'll come back."
The tradition of the accidental Christmas Eve sesh with old friends and flames is sacrosanct in British festive folklore. "It's really busy and my phone's going off," says Dan. "It's a pain in the ass, because I also work in a supermarket, usually until 7PM. So I'll get home after and then get back out dropping off. I can be up until gone 1AM for the last few. I live in a small place, though, so people are patient."
Stan, 38, from Brighton sells most drugs you can think of and stays open 24/7. He says Christmas Eve isn't really different to any other night: "Most people will get stuff and prepare in advance."
I can't help but think the Christmas Eve client would be more annoying than your everyday customer: giddy with festive endorphins and a prospective midnight fumble with The One Who Got Away. Stan disagrees: "They're no more annoying than usual – but I don't really get pissed off with people anymore. It's just another business night."
"It's the same as any other day, but a bit quieter," says Harry, 27, from Scotland. "Everyone is out Christmas Eve, so people are hungover for the rest of the day." Harry stays open on the big day, so I ask how he balances his job with his family and/or friend commitments. "Most people are getting dinner and doing family shit at the same time, so I'll just text them back saying I'll get them later, and they’re OK with it."
Dan has two children, so is closed for Christmas Day: "I've got cut-off points and I make sure my family comes first," he says. "But it'll get to 11AM/12PM in the afternoon and people will start trying to ring or text. I'll leave my phone on silent and send everyone a message saying, 'I wont be available for the day.'"
What about the rest of the period? Surely he's got other family commitments to fulfil, along with the job he's holding down? "I keep it well out the way. I'll arrange times and meet people, or drop to them all over a period of a couple hours. Saves me running in and out and making myself noticeable. For all the kids know, daddy's going to see a friend."
"I'll wake up to about ten texts and five calls on Boxing Day morning," says Dan. "Once all the family festivities are over, it's back to business on Boxing Day evening, running about like a headless chicken."
27th December to 30th December
"There's a considerable slowdown between Boxing Day and New Year's Eve," says Stan – a sentiment echoed by the other dealers I speak to. Dan anticipates cocaine sales falling, while weed chugs along. Across the whole festive period, though, he doubles his normal amount of sales: to around two ounces of cocaine and ten ounces of weed. "I try to over stock for Christmas and New Year's," he says. "I keep myself on a small scale until festival season and Christmas."
Interestingly, both Stan and Harry say that takings across the whole period remain consistent with the rest of the year: "There's no difference across the week for me," adds Stan.
For many, NYE and a bag go together like Christmas and pork-based goods of dubious origin. "I'll be out all hours," says Harry. "And I'll generally send a text earlier in the day to try and get people to put orders in early so I can spread them out."
Dan says he'll normally be at a house party with friends and will be nipping out to meet people, and that the calls will be coming in all morning as caners resolve to welcome the new year's first dawn as dead-eyed as possible: "If I'm still up, I'll be getting more calls for coke than normal at like 6AM, or people wanting weed and valium for the comedown."
Stan says the same, but that he wouldn't sell to someone who looked like they were chasing their high a little too hard. "I’ve had my very best friend die [from drugs], and have too much of conscience, so if I feel like it's time for them to call it a night I won't sell to them. Fuck the money!"
I ask Harry the same question. He says, "Nah, I don't care."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, business slows down as customers embark on hastily-made resolutions that they'll break on precisely the third weekend of the new year. "Coke goes pretty much dead, and weed drops to normal [four to five ounces]," says Dan, saying it takes until the end of the month for the lustre of Dry January to fade.
"Trust me," he adds. "January is extremely bad for business."
*All names have been changed