How does corona affect the drug scene? How does lockdown during a particularly social and celebratory time of year impact substance use? Drug researcher Hayley Murray investigates and shares the users’ perspective. This time: corona and Christmas.
In a normal year, you might celebrate the holidays with a few larger events, like boozy inter-department office parties, big festive family get-togethers, and the glittered frenzy that is New Year’s Eve. You know, those December events where ‘the more the merrier!’ is the motto.
Not this year. Unfortunately, we’re back to a familiar and lonely territory, but this time, the darkness is illuminated by strings of Christmas lights …and not fireworks. (Too soon?) In this return to lockdown, we are asked to keep our socializing to a maximum of two visitors per day. An un-welcomed challenge? Perhaps. Intimate? Absolutely. A responsible act of civic duty that goes elbow-to-elbow with wearing a mask? You betcha.
Rona rules dictate that we can only see two people a day, encouraging us to spread out our typical December festivities over more days. This will be my first time in 8 years that I will be in the Netherlands for the holidays and I am keen to start new traditions with my chosen family. But, after months and months of a baren social calendar (that, sorry friends, has brought me a deep and profound sense of joy), it feels like a lot for me and my blank Moleskin. How does this higher occurrence of intimate socializing impact alcohol and drug use and the choice of drug used? Let’s find out.
Leo (29) expressed her concern about the frequency of holiday events coming up; she could count on two hands how many social events she and her partner had planned this month. Although she couldn’t quantify her spiked sense of anxiety, it was there: a physical reaction to not only increased indoor contact, but also to how many of these days and nights would likely involve alcohol and drugs. She shares: “Pre-covid, my friends and I would often end our dinner parties with cocaine, and sometimes ketamine, so the more dinners spread out over our group of friends, the more opportunities there are to get high…which I’m not so sure if that’s a good thing, especially at a such a hard time.” To address the underlying sense of ‘what goes up, must come down’ in her worry, she is mindful of staying hydrated and blocking off full days of rest to balance out the fun with the comedown. Additionally, her experience points to the understanding that these powders, more than other party drugs like ecstasy, cannabis, or LSD, are commonly found in the settings where her socializing is taking place, like at the dinner table.
Petra (27) is decidedly more opportunistic and positive about this increase in safe socializing: “I’ve got to make up for a lot of lost time!” Normally, she would get high on ecstasy and cocaine at clubs and parties all year round, but now with this high concentration of breakfast clubs and dinner parties planned with other couples, she was going to make the most of it by throwing caution to the wind. She’s been on “such good behaviour all year,” can’t she grant herself some risk taking?
The more the un-merrier?
Others are being more selective on when to get high. Often, drug use is planned, for example, looking ahead to find a good club night on which to take ecstasy with your friends. But ‘planned drug use’ takes on a whole new meaning this month.
Making plans for New Year’s Eve can be exasperating at best. And this year, one might think it might be simpler: restrictions on celebrations = less planning, right? LOL. With the current restrictions, one group of friends understand that their annual holiday party of eight couples isn’t allowed; they need to split up into smaller groups. There are plenty of configurations this group can have, but the key is to plan out these smaller dates as to not end up ready to party with two people that can’t even be around alcohol. Easier said than done. And so, the question becomes: which of these nights in December will be the one that becomes a party?
Violet, (31) put it like this: “I’ve been waiting since last New Year’s Eve to go to a party and use ecstasy with my two girlfriends. But since we are following the rules, the night that it might work best for them to get high could be two days before New Year’s and do I want a serotonin dip while ringing in 2021? And what if my boyfriend also wants to take a pill with me on a different night? I don’t really want to use ecstasy twice in a week…”
While Violet’s frustrations with planning are unmistakable, it would be interesting to see if the decrease in spontaneity within this group leads to more conscious and more healthy decisions.
Party for 2
Kris (32) is actually ok with the pared down rule to, well, pairs. His plan? To make it work in his favor. He and his boyfriend decided to embrace this strange Near Year’s Eve and stay at home and take ecstasy together. He explains that they’ve used it a few times together at clubs and festivals last year, but never alone, just the two of them. He has high hopes for this evening: “It will be quite different than what we are used to, but I think using it on the couch without much external stimulation will actually increase that intimate feeling we’re craving.” This will also be the first time he will take this drug at home, so he’s been brainstorming how he can bring his favorite aspects of the dance floor and the chill out room into his apartment. He’s thinking Stevie Nicks meets Sylvester: “draped black lace tapestries and disco lights.”
Lieke (31), mirrors this idea to embrace the intimate by deciding to use GHB with their partner. She has used this depressant before on a festival and felt warm and woozy. A friend of theirs told them she and her partner started using GHB this year together and noted that it has made their sex life delicious. This piqued Lieke’s interest. After spending every waking hour these past nine months with her partner, the idea of adding something that could spice up their quarantine-routine-feeling sex life was a turn on. While other drugs they had used together had brought them a certain kind of closeness, it brought a new level of excitement to know they were approaching this drug use experience with the explicit goal to use it together in bed.
The decision to use GHB also offered them a break from the mundaneness that has crept in their drug using life, too. “I’m bored at taking drugs at home, I’m sick of this grey couch,” bemoans Lieke. So, it was decided: a new scenario of wild, drug induced sex. But at home, with roommates? Buzzkill. Saunas? Shutdown. A hotel near the airport? Sounds like stranger roleplay to me!
Many of us are eager to see the end of 2020. If you’re lucky, you have healthy, loved ones with whom you can safely celebrate with, bringing some warmth and light into during these exceptionally dark and cold days. How ever you choose to do so, consider doing it safely. Remember, 2021 is right around the corner to literally save us with its promises of vaccinations and vacations.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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.