by Elizabeth Oldfield
Monday, 31
May 2021
Spotted
15:00

Gen Z: Puritanical about everything except drugs

Cocaine use among young people is at a 16-year high
by Elizabeth Oldfield
Credit: Getty

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.

Join the discussion


  • If it’s true that the use of cocaine is so out-of-control, then how can it also be true that GenZ is the most financially challenged generation in the last 50 years? The last time I was actually paying attention to these things, cocaine was a ruinously expensive drug. Someone please help me to understand. Thanks.

  • 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%)

    I actually think thats a pretty good thing. they have learnt from their parents watching those on the left, remainers etc that loyalty of friends seem to be conditional on agreeing with what they say and therefore they are not in any real way friends anyway. I think gen-z will have real friends based on actions rather than virtue signalling.

  • This is a very confused article. It starts by saying that the cocaine epidemic is driven by the middle-aged, and then descends into hand wringing about younger people, who the author bizarrely thought were going to save all us oldies from ourselves, but won’t now because they are out of their minds on blow. Or something.
    Or perhaps the author had been enjoying a free sample?

  • To get involved in the discussion and stay up to date, become a registered user.

    It's simple, quick and free.

    Sign me up