Cocaine Redux

Admittedly, the article I wrote on cocaine a couple of weeks back was a little too anecdotal. Though I tried to find them, I couldn’t quite find the stats I needed to back up some of my contentions, and some of you have called me out for that, or for other reasons, including whichever of you sent me the vaguely ominous anonymous letter on the black construction paper.

But just the other day, while I was on vacation reading about local street gangs on the ‘net, I came across this report from the Department of Justice. Entitled “Houston: High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Market Analysis.” On page 11, it reads thusly:


“Illicit drug abuse in Houston occurs at high levels because of a relatively large abuser population and a constant supply of illicit drugs transported into the city from areas in proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border. According to Texas Department of State Health Services data, drug-related treatment admissions have increased 38 percent from 2002 through 2005, the latest data available. Some of this increase can be attributed to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita evacuees who entered treatment programs in the last 4 months of 2005.

Amphetamine/methamphetamine, powder and crack cocaine, and marijuana-related treatment admissions have all increased since 2002. Amphetamine/methamphetamine admissions have more than doubled from 2002 (77) to 2005 (165). Crack cocaine-related treatment increased slightly from 2002 (1,889) to 2005 (1,897); however, powder cocaine-related treatment admissions more than doubled from 357 to 799 during the same period. Marijuana-related treatment admissions increased 70 percent from 2002 (1,331) to 2005 (2,274).

Drug-related deaths increased from 2003 to 2005. According to the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office, overall drug intoxication deaths increased from 2003 (153) to 2005 (309), the latest data available. Drug intoxication deaths where cocaine was found as a single drug increased by 59 percent from 2003 (69) to 2005 (110). Additionally, drug intoxication deaths where heroin was found as a single drug more than doubled from 2002 (5) to 2005 (11).” (Emphasis mine.)

Some of you may wonder what all this has to do with music. In my view, everything. It is no accident that music comes last in the “sex, drugs and rock and roll” cliché. And whatever drugs are in vogue with the public tend to be in vogue with musicians too, and no one drug is more corrosive to an artist’s output that cocaine.

British music executive Simon Napier-Bell, whose career spans from from trumpeting in a Dixieland Band to managing the Yardbirds, discovering Marc Bolan and managing Wham!, laid it out in his 2002 book Black Vinyl, White Powder. In his view, British and American pop have fed off the drugs that fed the musicians ever since the dawn of recording. Weed fuelled the blues; speed fuelled early rock and roll and later punk, acid birthed psychedelia, dance sprung from ecstasy and coke inspired all things glam. (And Houston rap positively oozes codeine.)

A secondary point Napier-Bell makes is that virtually all musicians will end up on cocaine at some point, and that it is the most horrible drug of them all. "It is the worst drug,” he told a British paper back in 2002. “I can manage people on heroin - once a day you've got to give them 10 minutes, then they're fine. It only gives you a problem when you're not taking it. Unless you're overdosing, of course. But cocaine - if you don't take it you're hopeless, if you do take it you're hopeless." – John Nova Lomax

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