Vice Squad
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Cocaine in New York City

Today's New York Times runs an article in its Sunday Styles section about the prominence of cocaine in the city's nightlife (and in the lifestyle of the creative set more generally). There's a claim that the resurgence of coke use among young New Yorkers -- a resurgence that does not seem to have much statistical evidence in its support -- is in part due to 'generational amnesia.' The idea here is that the generation scarred by John Belushi's death was driven away from cocaine, but that the younger generation has not seen the same tragedies associated with the drug. This is a version of the usual 'new drug' problem. The use of addictive drugs tends to bring current pleasure and future pain. When a drug is new, few users are paying the cost, so it looks a bit better than it will turn out to be. New or rediscovered drugs develop better reputations, for a time, than they deserve. And the lack of a convincing statistical portrait of use is one of the raft of negative consequences stemming from drug prohibition.

'Coke is the new weed,' in terms of the acceptability of its open use in certain circles, according to one quote in the article. Another observer notes that the use of cocaine is much more socially acceptable than...smoking a cigarette. There's even a claim that the campaign against methamphetamine has made users think of cocaine as a safer alternative.

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