Cocaine use among young people is at a 16-year high
The dark underbelly of middle-aged, middle class drug habits was displayed last week, after a major police operation against “county lines” drug dealing — the movement of drugs, mostly cocaine, from urban centres to rural markets. These activities exploit vulnerable people, using them as couriers and their homes to deal and store drugs. This week alone nearly 1000 of these “cuckooed” homes were visited, and “1,138 vulnerable people were safeguarded, including 573 children.”
The relaxed attitudes of Gen X and Millennials towards drug taking are well documented. The nineties and noughties saw a libertarian attitude to personal morality take hold in which the ‘live and let live’ served as a generational creed. This period also led to a rise of sex-positivity and porn-positivity, and judgementalism becoming the most mortal of sins.
So what is going on? Surely a generation uniquely attuned to justice for the vulnerable and marginalised, animals and the planet should care about the knock-on effects of their cocaine habit? A Gen Z friend told me that “friends my age think cocaine is ‘better value for money’ than booze, and it’s easier to perform the next day”.
His hunch is that the reduction in risk-taking behaviour, which at first glance might seem to relate to morality, is perhaps instead what he called “market optimised behaviour” — making choices based on risk-aversion and hyper-awareness of the demands of an always-on, always-attractive, always-optimising culture. It’s telling that more young people care about getting good grades or succeeding in their chosen career (82%) than spending time with their friends (68%) (according to a British Pregnancy Advisory Service survey).
The rise in cocaine use may indicate that this pre-occupation with performance has definite dark side. Perhaps the idea that Gen Z might save us from our worst selves was too much to hope for.