Recreational drugs and isolation

Using recreational drugs during the lockdown? Take care of yourself

May 4, 2020

Lockdown is a funny time to be taking drugs, isn’t it? On one hand, you’re likely working from home (or furloughed...), so can snort cocaine on a school night without the prospect of a 7/10 anxiety attack during the next morning’s commute. On the other: coronavirus has plunged society into an unprecedented crisis, so is it really the appropriate time to be merrily ordering some MDMA and road-testing your ‘Pandemonium’’ playlist?

Nevertheless, 9.4%1 of UK adults aged 16 to 59-years old used an illegal narcotic in 2018/19 with 3.7% taking a Class A drug and 7.4% using cannabis. So people will likely indulge. Whilst supply problems have been mooted2, recent quotes from Bob Van Den Berghe, senior law enforcement officer at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), suggested coke is still flooding into Europe. But how can you do so whilst adhering to the doctrine of social distancing and without losing control?

scrabble pieces spelling out stay home stay safe

Sharing definitely isn’t caring

“For most people, drug use is socialised,” says Adam Winstock of Global Drug Survey. He thinks occasional users won’t notice as they only take drugs a handful of times per year, while regular social drug-takers will likely subset – some seizing the chance to break their bi-weekly cocaine habit while others lurch the other way and possibly stockpile. It’s the latter portion that should be mindful:

They might buy a larger amount with the view to rationing. But then they have a couple of beers on a Wednesday and decide to have a cheeky line. Before you know it – six weeks of coke is gone in a week or two” Adam says.

If you are buying cocaine, adhere to some lockdown-appropriate safety measures that can be applied to any substance which is conventionally shared:

This is a time to be selfish with your drugs,” says Nick Hickmott of addiction charity We Are With You. “Passing around a straw [or a note, joint, or bong] is a sure way to pass around the virus.

He adds, “The nicest thing you can do is keep your stash to yourself”.

Words that will ring like celestial bells for your mate who always ‘forgets’ to offer a key of their gear.

Should cocaine be your bag during lockdown?

Cocaine can also have wide-ranging effects on your brain – whether it be cognitive impairment3 increased anxiety4 or your literal grey matter decreasing in size5. The research concerns longer-term users but indicates cocaine’s ability to scramble your noggin’s capabilities, even after the sesh. This, argues Dominic Milton, author of The Drug Users Bible, offers its own reasons to consider the necessity of putting a call in:

After a binge you’re not working at full capacity. Your drug use will affect your ability to discharge your responsibilities. To help others, possibly, in their hour of need.

Of course, your mum could fall down the stairs on any given Sunday, but it’s an interesting quandary for non-dependent drug users. We’re living in a time of extreme collective responsibility: to stay healthy as possible, to protect the NHS, to invoke a soupçon of that wartime resolve. If you’re taking drugs until sunrise, then get a call from a sick family member who is freaking out about their skyrocketing temperature - have you put yourself in the best position to assist them and, by proxy, everyone else in the war against coronavirus? The answer is: probably not.

Love thy immune system

Numerous studies6 highlight the ability of drugs and alcohol to diminish your immune system, with this 2018 paper7 giving alcohol users an 83% increased chance of contracting community-acquired pneumonia. But cannabis smokers should take special heed.

Cannabis might be attractive to relieve boredom but users should protect their lungs and not smoke,” says Adam Winstock. “Get yourself a dry vape, bake cookies or make some canna butter. Remember that orally it will take an hour to get high: maybe longer if you have a full stomach.

Research has shown that repeated MDMA use can also cause immunosuppression8. Plus, isn’t there a strange dichotomy in using an empathogenic drug in an environment where it’s virtually a law to keep two metres between yourself and any human who doesn’t live in your house. A similar argument might be used against taking psychedelics during this period.

In most normal times if you asked me which are the safest drugs to take now, I would probably say psychedelics as they’re relatively low toxicity and self-limiting,” Adam says. “But with set and setting so fragile at present I am not so sure.

Meditate don’t medicate

Dominic Milton, veteran tester of over 150 different narcotics, suggests now might be a prescient time for psychonauts to peel the onion through alternative means:
People interested in working on themselves and spiritual growth are generally more likely to be psychedelic users,” he says. “It’s the perfect time to learn to meditate – to come out of this as a more informed and better version of yourself.

More troubling are legal substances. Britons spent an extra £160million9 on booze from retailers in the first three weeks of March – posing concerns at a time when 36% of the population reported significant anxiety10 and will have greater susceptibility to boredom and loneliness12. These states of mind have all been linked to increased alcohol use and are some of the reasons why benzodiazepine users indulge and potentially misuse the drug.

Keep your mates close – and yourself closer

Adam goes on to say: “My greatest concern is that, for many people, the drugs of choice at stressful, isolating times are depressants – like alcohol and benzos, which carry greater risks of overdose and dependency."

Anyone looking to monitor their alcohol use should download Drinks Meter and, if you have concerns about yours or anyone else’s drugs intake, reach out to charities like We Are With You.

As we’re all painfully aware by now, coronavirus is a marathon not a sprint: fortunately we’re not sweating through the first mile but we’re certainly not approaching the final bend. With lockdown ennui firmly entrenched and the temptation to return to previous habits strong, these guidelines are more vital than ever. So please keep and eye on your running mates and, most importantly, yourself.

This post was written by a guest contributor, David Hillier. David is a writer and journalist who specialises in drug culture, festivals and mental health. He writes for Vice, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and you can find him on Twitter and Instragam at @dhillierwrites.

The Drugs and Me blog was created for informational purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. All drugs pose risks, and the best way to avoid them is not to take any, but we understand that people still choose to. Drugs and Me exists to provide you with information about drugs, helping to reduce their harms based on the best evidence available. Take a look at our various guides to find out how you can stay safe.

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1: Drugs Misuse: Findings from the 2018/19 Crime Survey for England and Wales [Internet], 2019 [cited May 2020]

2: Drug Dealers Say Coronavirus Is Already Affecting Supply And Demand [Internet] Vice. 2020, [cited May 2020]. Available from:

3: M.Vonmoos, L.Hulka, K.Preller, F.Minder, M.Baumgartner, B.Quednow Cognitive Impairment in Cocaine Users is Drug-Induced but Partially Reversible: Evidence from a Longitudinal Study [Internet] PubMed Central (PMC). 2014 [cited May 2020]. Available from:

4: C.J Alves, A. Magalhães, P.R Monteiro, T,Summavielle Very Long-Term Effects of Chronic Cocaine on Anxiety and Stress [Internet] Science Direct, 2017, [cited May 2020]. Available from:

5: Ersche, K., Jones, P., Williams, G. et al. Cocaine dependence: a fast-track for brain ageing? [Internet]. Mol Psychiatry, 2012, [cited May 2020]. Available from

6: H.Friedman, S.Pross, SW Klein, Addictive drugs And Their Relationship With Infectious Diseases. [Internet] PubMed Central (PMC), 2006 [cited May 2020]. Available from:

7: E.Simou, J.Britton, J.Leonardi Bee, Alcohol And The Risk Of Pneumonia: A Systematic Review and meta-analysis [Internet[] PubMed Central (PMC), 2018 [cited May 2020). Available from:

8: R.Pacifici, P.Zuccoro, Magi Farré, S Pichini, Effects Of Repeated Doses Of MDMA ("Ecstasy") On Cell-Mediated Immune Response In Humans [Internet] Life Sciences, 2001 [cited May 2020] Available from:

9: Coronavirus: Crisis Drives £160m Additional Spend On Supermarket Booze [Internet] The Grocer, 2020 [cited May 2020. Available from:

10: F.Torvik, T. Rosenström, K.Gustavson, E Ystrom, K Kendler, J.G, Bramness, N.Czajkowksi, T.Reichborn-Kjennerud Explaining The Association Between Anxiety Disorders And Alcohol Use Disorder: A Twin Study [Internet]
Depression and Anxiety, 2019 [cited May 2020], Available from

11: R.Biocalti, G Mancini, E Trombini, Proneness to Boredom and Risk Behaviors During Adolescents' Free Time [Internet], PubMed (PMC) 2018 [cited, May 2020]. Available from:

12: I Akerlind, J O Hörnqvist
, Loneliness And Alcohol aAbuse: A Review Of Evidences Of An Interplay.[Internet] PubMed (PMC) 1992 [cited, May 2020]

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