Can't stop the party drug
Considering cocaine’s seamy reputation and the known consequences of its use, who’s still using it and why? Raymond, 33, a professional stylist who is Hispanic, uses cocaine to stay up and out without feeling too drunk. “I do it four or five times a week lately,” he says. “I’m trying to fill myself up with experiences. Isn’t that what life is about?” Brad the writer, 32, white and affluent, cites similar reasons, saying he does it to “keep the fun going. You can drink WAY more if you’re running to the bathroom for bumps all night.”
“I’m out, y’know? And coke is a big part of the scene. It’s expected,” says Rachel, a middle-class, 26-year-old transplant from Canada who works in the service industry. “There’s a lot of nights where your friends are just talking-talking-talking, and you realize you’re the only one at the bar not coked-out, so you want to get on their level. One bump leads to another,” she says. FOMO and cascading use are familiar refrains. “You do some trash blow, it’s uppy, and it makes you kind of nauseous,” Brad says, “so you do another to get rid of the nausea, and another. You’re drinking, talking, dancing. You turn around, the bag’s gone and it’s five in the morning.” The line of logic seems to almost always terminate on chasing a late-night experience. “I don’t want to miss anything,” says Raymond. “And that’s hard if I’m passing out.”
With disparate potential users, the DOH’s next question was where to roll out the initiative. “The Lower East Side has some of the highest concentrations of liquor licenses in the state,” Bookman says. The 9-or-so square blocks stretching from the corners of Delancey and Essex to Bowery and Houston have been dubbed Hell’s Square by locals. “We wanted to go to a neighborhood with a high density of bars that’s a destination spot so we could reach a high number of people,” Dr. Paone says.