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Blair’s narco-man, and lots of others, get the wrong smoke signal

Culled from the Daily Mail's Hellawell report, showing the full range of bollox opinions...

KEITH HELLAWELL was condemned yesterday after claiming that cannabis use did not lead to heroin abuse, in the wake of a report which revealed that Britain is the cannabis capital of Europe. It fuelled speculation that his three-year contract as Whitehall’s most highly-paid adviser may not be renewed next year.

The Government’s drugs tsar’s views are out of step with Home Secretary, Jack Straw, while Blair has bypassed him over key policy announcements.

Mr Hellawell, who earns 106,000 a year, insisted there was no research to prove the link between taking cannabis and starting to use harder drugs — the so-called ‘gateway effect’. "I have never subscribed to the view that if you take cannabis you end up taking heroin. There’s no research I know of that proves the link."

Professor John Henry, a toxicologist at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, said Mr Hellawell. "In saying cannabis does not lead to heroin abuse, he is really is a garbage merchant. What is he trying to achieve by saying that is anybody’s guess…We found a definite progression in the unfortunate people we work with every day.. Tory home affairs mouthpiece, David Lidington, said: "The professionals say to me that virtually all addicts on hard drugs started on cannabis."

The Guardian spots the drugs czar's narcomisconception (leader comment Nov 2002)

A study in the medical journal Addiction revealed a clear progression in drug use among 10,000 schoolchildren, starting with alcohol and cigarettes, followed by cannabis, amphetamines, ecstasy and heroin. Cannabis use signalled the beginning of dangerous experimentation with harder drugs, health experts in Norway found. Roger Howard, chief executive of the charity Drugscope, said: "Anyone who implies cannabis is harm-free is living in cloud cuckoo-land."

Last week a report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug addiction showed that one in ten British adults admitted using cannabis in the past year — the highest rate in Europe.

A 1997 study in the journal Science revealed that cannabis works on the same parts of the brain as other sedatives, including heroin. Doctors and anti-drugs campaigners agree that the majority of heroin users start taking cannabis.

Last night, a Government spokesman lied: "He feels that in terms of the ‘a gateway effect’ there is no research to show a connection, but from his own personal experiences, people say cannabis gets them on to harder drugs".

WhoreCull says: the latest in a long line of state-sponsored drug progression theories, the ‘gateway’ effect seems to regard all potential drug-takers as hapless morons. Wrong. People know there are stronger drugs available, and usually rationally choose enough which ones they want to indulge in. Most heroin users probably knew they’d be chasing dragons eventually. Marijuana is the gateway only in that it’s piss-easy to get hold of, and it’s fair to say that a touch of the irie is actually the ‘safeway’ — many choose solely to smoke that as their narco-consumption.

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Sell-out arseholes who ‘went wild’ at university or ‘lost’ themselves travelling take great pride in telling us how they’ve ‘calmed down’. Where’s the joy in that?

Two frequent points: "I used to smoke ‘that stuff’ at university" and "I don’t go to clubs any more." What’s this reactionary rubbish? Why, it’s the postgraduate masses assimilating almost imperceptibly into parent- and state-endorsed habits, and left willing prey to the marketing whims of a million leisure conglomerates. Have you tried that new drink yet?/have you been in that new bar??//there’s really great discounts on this new gym I’ve just joined…. No, no! NO!!

Why this widespread erroneous belief that tokin’, droppin’, poppin’ and snortin’ stop after Graduation? Is it guilt, successful social brainwashing or mislead beliefs about the role of higher education? It’s certainly cultural fascism when those above points assault your ears. Listen, Carling Dave and Chardonnay Kate, this is a LIFESTYLE thing here. The weed, the pills, the whatevers — they’re habits that are often picked up at that age (like booze), but that doesn’t mean they’re tossed away as your ‘real’ world arrives — in itself an attitude that fundamentally reaffirms the mistaken belief that university is just three years in fantasy world.

Too often the implication is that you haven’t ‘grown up’ if you continue to indulge. It’s quite the opposite. The caners are looking at their current life-experiences and arguing that there is a continued place for such recreational drug use. The fear factor is relevant, as the scare-tactics of our cultural benefactors obviously work to the point that the assimilators believe it’s something they can only do in the cocoon of the campus.

And too often the assimilators can only offer pure nostalgia for tales of indulgence. "I was so fucked that time in uni," or "we used to do bongs all the time in Halls." Got any contemporary anecdotes, lads (not ones that involve 15 pints)? It’s staggering that people who have seen the other side of the recreational coin can so readily accept these narrow fun confines. They’re denying themselves pleasure, which seems pretty irresponsible to me. As for the uber-lads in the Sherman shirts, to them Acid House was the Chemistry lab at school and beer is the permanent poison for intoxication.

Hey Carling Dave and Chardonnay Kate, the caners can get battered every night on the herb and do their Mac-job just as well as you — while your standards seem to slip dramatically when you’re sweating out the booze of successive nights of being ‘on the sauce’. And there’s some amazing double standards at work here, which directly correspond to the social diktat of "legal drugs good, illegal drugs bad". Time and again, I hear the line of "you’re smoking too much of that stuff" or "you want to stay away from that" — when they’ve made a mockery of the weekly advised alcohol limit by Tuesday night. I’m all for a freedom of choice when it comes to consumption, but people are just trying to comfort themselves because their drug of choice is legal, so therefore "I can’t be an addict, can I?" Detox is at least as painful as the comedown.

Yet it’s amazing how they rediscover a taste after a few lagers — "can I have a toke on that", "can you get me some for next week". In both cases, mate, NO! And people wonder why they have an adverse reaction to marijuana when they want a toke after 5 export lagers, 2 alco-pops, a double whisky and a cigar.

Not that we’re likely to want in to their lifestyle. As Richard Benson observed in a Guardian article last year, in recent years there’s been much more promotion of neutral drinking spaces, to attract the female drinker away from her Friends video and sofa. This is all fair enough, but the pubs that now dominate this land are necessarily bland, uniform venues, with the deliberate side-affect of alienating the Narcos of both sexes. Of course we don’t want to go in there, the music and atmosphere are rigidly set on one mode of enjoyment; you can expect the usual Lighthouse Family/Moby/Texas suspects; even the food’s as bland as fuck. No wonder the Shoreditch district of London is seen as a cultural oasis — there’s no chain bars (similarly Leeds’ Call Lane, M/Cr’s ‘Northern Quarter’).

Which influences a wider point. Playing the safe social card influences most of their life-decisions — music, reading, politics, it’s got to be COMFORTING, affirmative of their status quo and often nostalgic in nature, again. And don’t even begin to mention the highbrow arts.

Then there’s the reaction from another middle-youth tribe: those who seem to spend their time solely in flash bars up and down the country, have a liking for expensive alcohol, regardless of taste, and an even bigger weakness for cocaine. This jet set look down on anyone who isn’t face down in some nosebag or ‘messy’ on cocktails and champagne. For the Flash Bar crowds, substance is irrelevant, so the music in the places they frequent tends leans to the insipid jazz-house variety — not played loud enough to be the focus of course. You may have seen last year’s shameless Bar Grooves compilation attempting to define a zeitgeist already well past its sell by-date (the daddy of them all, Manchester’s Dry Bar, sprung up fifteen years ago). Then there’s Amalgamation of Sounds, djs capable of digging out great tracks but also djs happy to be residents to the doyens of the desperate Met Bar. And what a surprise many of them are members’ bars, although this makes the decision NOT to go in them even easier than it already was.

It’s not that I have a problem with the Bugle, far from it. I just find that it is far more productive when used as part of a balanced chemical diet. What’s wrong with combining ALL these things?? The drug market is a sweet shop, and the dealers encourage ‘Pick ‘N Mix’. Not surprisingly, this open attitude seems to be more on display outside of the suffocating, self-conscious environs of London.

Luckily, with my wardrobe of tatty anoraks and tattier trainers I’m not considered Flash Bar material, and it’s positively life-affirming to get those down-stares from the bugle crowd, or from those happy to take the comfortable options down The Slug & Lettuce. You won’t find me down in there or some other vomit venue, but more likely among weed and beers at my flat. Finding a good pub that hasn’t been converted into the latest instantly recognisable Bass or Whitbread brand is becoming a frustrating search. And indeed, the number of companions willing to ‘adventure’ away from their fave leisure brands dwindles through time too. There’s loads of good pubs out there that aren’t sterile. Those off the beaten track beat the mass-produced tack any day.

With all these obstacles, it’s no wonder those who choose quite rationally to maintain the narcotic lifestyle into their late 20s and beyond often do so in the pleasure of their own house. You’ve got the records/cds you like, all your mates, the necessary narcotics and cheap alcohol in the fridge, why compromise yourself with the hassles of the outside demi-monde when all the decadence you need is there at home for you? Either that, or another familiar tactic: go out early to warm up then push on through at home. Bars and clubs all close eventually, all too early in most cases, the front room never does. Matthew Collins’ Altered States details a trend in early 90s Manchester, whereby people deserted the clubs, mainly to indulge in cocaine-led parties in their own houses.

Nevertheless, what’s the big fear about clubbing? You can do all the things you do in a bar or club, but until later on and without the underlying sexism and racism that infests your Jo-Average pub, and distinctly less threat of violence as there’s far less ‘friendly aggressive’ behaviour (see Viz’s Going-out booklet). Oh I forget, the beerheads seem to choose EVERY Saturday to ‘go on a big one’ — which ends at 10.30 as someone calls a curry. Variation, PLEASE.

So yeah, it’s maddening that people seem so happy to assimilate so quickly after their ‘wild’ student years. But fuck them, they’re clearly adhering to the parentally-ascribed path, where ‘having a laugh’ has its place, but way behind your double-edged destiny: marriage and career. Free thinkers are seen as subversives to these corporate cock-suckers. And the Flash Bar cocainers can fuck off too, their conspicuous attitude to consumption shows us it’s just another show of materialism. Let’s hope they get weevil attacks and start scratching the skin off their limbs: they won’t be welcome among the Phillip Starck-esque minimalism and Veuve Cliquot then.

We’re better off without both of them, I reckon.

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