Drug wars? Just say no
The TV series Patrick Melrose begins with Benedict Cumberbatch doing his best to kill himself with drugs or to get killed buying them. The wealthy young Londoner goes to the nastiest people in the most dangerous places in New York City to buy them, injects god knows what into himself in squalid dives with dirty syringes and spends the entire episode writhing in various degrees of agony, ecstasy and madness. It’s hardly a puff piece for drug culture and reminded me why I’ve largely avoided it. Can’t stand needles.
It might have been different. I was, after all, a nicoteenager, and remained hooked on cigarettes until my late 30s. But the other nasties held no charms. Cross my heart, I’ve only been drunk once in my life – aged 16 – and enjoyed it far too much to risk it again.
I hate losing control. Which is why I also turned down an offer to try LSD in a perfectly legal scientific experiment organised by a Melbourne shrink: not because I feared a bad trip so much as a good one. Years later I spent a weekend driving Timothy Leary around Sydney and resisted his psychedelic seductions. (Leary died not long afterwards. Having first considered cryogenic freezing, he finally agreed to cremation – and I like it that some of his ashes were launched into space along with those of Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek.)
More recently, the highly respected US author and food activist Michael Pollan tried to persuade me to join his campaign to have LSD and other hallucinogenic substances welcomed back to the world for medical and transcendental purposes. One again I resisted. Chemically induced mysticism might be too enjoyable. More “losing control” issues.
Someone once offered me white powder at a Hollywood party. Didn’t know what it was – snuff? talcum? – but I sniffed it obediently. The effect was more dental than mental. All cocaine gave me was numb teeth; I preferred the nice gas you could get