Part nine: Checking in

Hayley‘s Lockdown Drug Use Diaries

How has corona affected the drug scene? How did young people who use drugs experience this past year under the conditions of covid? In this Poppi series, drug researcher Hayley Murray investigates and shares the users’ perspective on how they cope with their drug use during corona. This time: a check-in, part two

I revisited some of the people I had spoken to in March 2020 to see how, after more than a year, the pandemic had influenced their drug using lives. There was much to share, so this check-in comes in three parts. The first addressed stories about what are the ‘normal’ situations to get high in over the past year, plus some more new drug using experiences. This second part presents the most memorable drug using experiences during the pandemic. Stay tuned for part three.


High points

There were an infinite number of good during using experiences and stories that were reported. Which is reassuring; recreational drug use should be well, recreational. But what are some of key ingredients for a really good time? Well, that depends on who you ask.


Safety is no accident

For Mila (31), white powders are key elements for an enjoyable time. But come party time, that’s not the only things that were going up peoples’ noses. “I know they aren’t 100% effective but doing the at home rapid tests beforehand was a relatively easy way to feel a bit safer when planning get-togethers,” she tells me.


Mila and 12 of her friends were able to book a farm house for a long weekend getaway, but their fun required a bit of planning. “We did a half-baked pre and post party quarantine, and all took tests at home before, and even biked over two hours to the location as to avoid the train and to minimize contact.”


Sure, quick tests were handy and some drugs were fun, but what made this trip truly memorable? “Man, it felt so good, trading sitting indoors with a laptop to chilling outside under the stars listening to frogs. This change of surrounding almost felt like a real vacation, like an escape from lockdown life in the city. And that’s something I’ve been longing for. I felt mentally completely reset when I got back home, I even felt like my comedown was less severe.”



GHB and threesome

Kris (33) and his girlfriend had enjoyed the opportunity to experiment with GHB while in lockdown last spring. They had particularly enjoyed the addition to their sex life. “We were having loads of fun together, but we developed this shared fantasy to bring another person into the mix. Of course, it was kind of a risky time to be sharing bodily fluids with someone new so we had to take certain precautious beforehand and really plan it out. It was also her first time using GHB so we also had to prepare her for what to expect before and after.”


Was this new body just a way to make contact with outside world and prove that other people existed outside their apartment?….Perhaps. Did it work? Yes. Was all this planning worth it? Absolutely. I could hear his smile as he told me: “It was really fun, fluid, and more enjoyable than expected. Great, just great!” 


Those warm summer nights

Others got their kicks from more impromptu situations. A warm June evening. A BBQ on the rooftop terrace with close friends. Lieke (32) had almost forgotten about the virus, “except for the name tags tied to each of our wine glasses and the constant reminder to not share joints and cigarettes. I felt like I was getting an electric shock each time I went to pass my cigarette or to my friend, like ‘No! That is unsafe now!’ Which is fine, but since we usually share them, I ended up smoking twice as much as I normally would, which made me feel like shit the next day.”


But what made this particular evening standout? It was a step outside the covid bubble of prediction. “This year has been all about rules and planning, there’s been no room for surprises and spontaneity. Like, if I’m hanging out with my tiny group of friends I regularly see, it’s likely that another friend is not going to stop by, or something wild will come our way. All my socializing felt so planned out, which made the whole vibe a bit boring.” Enter: her live-in boyfriend.


“That night, he came home after drinking in the park with his friend and was feeling a bit mischievous. And I guess he also picked on that fact that we were delighted to welcome this new energy. Before I knew it, he had cleared our dinner plates and replaced it with our magical mirror with cocaine and ketamine. It was a cheeky but welcomed step up from our sangria. I think we were all so surprised that our night was turning into something more, it didn’t matter that we were misbehaving and breaking curfew. I would take some lines with my boyfriend every now and then, but never like this since corona. It really satiated my longing for unexpected fun with more people.”


Solo speed dating

It’s hard for Nikita (32) to pick just one high point of her drug using experiences this past year (Their at-home pub crawl? Themed dress-up nights? Choice stress!) “I would have to say my solo speed date I took myself on last summer was the best. It was such a joy to wake up and realize I had the entire day to myself, with no expectation or plans. So, I made a coffee, put on some nice music, made a line and I was off! I cleaned, I danced, I texted with friends. I sat outside and felt the sun on my face while I did some puzzles. Later, I biked to the market and I cooked (side note: she did not eat) and puttered around the internet for a while. Nothing spectacular or party-like but sometimes that is just the type of situation I like speed for.”


She had done these speed dates before covid but this time it felt extra nice, like a well-deserved disconnect from her reality. “I work with older clients and all year I’ve had to negotiate my work with physical distancing and masks. It was such a relief to devote a whole day to myself and my needs and just turn inwards and ask myself: what do I want? What do I need? (…The need for speed? Lame, sorry.) For Nikita, this high point of her year was an act of self-care.


Despite of having to change all our daily activities because of the pandemic, it’s life affirming to know that people like Nikita and the others above have found a way to both take care of and enjoy themselves, safely, in a way that refills their cup.


If you have something to offer this discussion around recreational substance use and quarantine, which trust me, you do, please get in touch with me via Telegram @sharewithpoppi  or Your anonymity will be guaranteed.


For those of you who already have shared with me: you are great, thank you.

Check back in with Poppi’s blog regularly as, with your help, I’ll continue to explore what this new reality means for recreational substance use(rs) in the Netherlands.

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