Tales from the Drug Closet

Do you dare to talk about your experiences with drugs? The ‘Tales from the Drug Closet‘ project invites people to ‘come out’ about their drug use. Anonymous, or out in the open: you can decide. Our app is currently piloted in Poppi’s ecstasy shop in Utrecht. We hope to launch the app in the fall of 2022.

Personal experiences with drug use

‘Tales from the Drug Closet’ is a storytelling app and we are currently testing a pilot version in Poppi’s ecstasy shop.  We hope to launch the tested app in the fall of 2022. The app will help us to collect online stories about personal experiences with drug use. The project is linked to the ongoing European research project ‘Governing the Narcotic City‘, in which Gemma Blok, professor of History of Mental Health and Culture at the Open University, is one of the principal investigators. In ‘Tales from the Drug Closet’ we also work with KNAW-DANS, the national expertise center and repository for research data.  

Illegal market

Even in the Netherlands, despite the coffee shop culture, drug use is surrounded by silence. Commonly used drugs like cocaine and ecstasy are banned and moral disapproval of their use is widespread. Users fear exposure and are dependent on an illegal market to buy their drugs. People buy their drugs with a street-dealer, on the ‘dark web’ or simply using social media: drug menu’s are circulated via WhatsApp for example. What experiences lie behind this huge illegal sector? And why do people take all these risks to get high? We only know part of the answer, as the public discourse only shows the extremes: addictions on the one hand or the positive experiences of activist users on the other. The fact that stories of drug use are often one-dimensional perpetuates stigma and the taboo on substance use.

Purely for ‘fun’

Tales from the Drug Closet’ hopes to entice more people to share their stories. ‘Ordinary’ people who use occasionally, or who may (periodically) struggle to limit their use; just like many people struggle with alcohol. Do people use drugs purely for ‘fun’, or do intoxicants also have a function in their self-development, spiritual lives or in relation to work and family? What shades of gray are there between positive and negative experiences?

More insight into this is needed for a better understanding of drug use as a social and cultural phenomenon. But also for the formulation of a well-informed drug policy. The data that we gather will be used for research purposes, but also to generate a website filled with personal stories and experiences. In doing so, we hope to break taboos and counter stigma. The best part: the person sharing a story is in full control on how much of his or her identity is revealed.


HERA, Humanities in the European Research Area, is a network consisting of research councils from 24 countries in Europe. More information about the HERA network and programmes can be found on the HERA website.

Pilot version can now be tested in Poppi's ecstasy shop

The app is currently being piloted in Poppi's ecstasy shop in Utrecht