Laying out a cocaine line at a party used to be like sticking your dick in the mashed potatoes. 

But news reports and conversations with casual cocaine users suggest that the taboo against using cocaine openly and recreationally may be falling as gradually as a cocaine addict's septum

To be clear, coke is still a niche drug, far less popular than alcohol or weed. 

But as usual, it's the Brits — so proper and polite and conservative on the outside — who are opening the West to another narcotic. Cocaine in the U.K. is becoming "like a weekend drink" and "an everyday drug." "My entire social circle was doing it," a recovering cocaine addict told SkyNews. "It was socially acceptable." Nose candy is all over the English upper classes: six of seven candidates to lead Britain's conservative party admitted using drugs. And current prime minister Boris Johnson not only hinted — like our Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama openly admitted — to using cocaine, but Johnson himself looks like cocaine in human form. 

In America, it's still mostly taboo to casually admit you enjoy cocaine. But the numbers don't lie. Cocaine availability in the U.S. is up, purity is up, prices are down, and Colombian production is up, according to the most recent National Drug Threat Assessment, the DEA's most comprehensive yearly report on how pointless their agency is. 

Graph - purity and price of cocaine

[Cocaine prices fall and purity rises. From the DEA.]

How big of a problem is casual cocaine use, exactly? 

Capitalism sells certain drugs legally, and expects you to responsibly use them: tobacco, alcohol, Adderall, Xanax. And most people do. 

But while American officialdom denies you can use cocaine like you use alcohol — it believes cocaine can only land you in an alley fellating truckers for ten-spots — in fact, hard data shows most coke-dabblers don't form a habit. From Time magazine

(In 2013,) 14.5% of Americans ages 12 and older have tried cocaine at least once, but just 1.8% report using the drug recreationally in the past year. And just 0.6% have used it in the past 30 days, which would seem to be the minimal definition of a casual user.

Even with crack, 80 to 90 percent of those who smoke the rock don't get addicted. Sigmund Freud used coke productively. Freddy's Mercury's music was amazing, and it wasn't the coke that killed Freddy, it was the late-night bad decisions cocaine helps you make. 

The big question: Why is the coke taboo crumbling? 

One possible answer is weed. There used to be an insane taboo at upright middle-class Patagonia-wearing adult parties against pulling out a joint. But weed is now accepted as a medicine, a drug less dangerous than alcohol. And as societies change (and possibly crumble), taboos don't fall in isolation. Just as taboos are disappearing against, say, face tattoos and butt cleavage, so Americans, like the Brits, are vilifying cocaine less than we used to. Cocaine, like weed, is, of course, a medicine.

Although coke ain't, like, good. It ain't fish oil or sunrise yoga. Cocaine-related overdose deaths are rising — often due to impure cocaine laced with fentanyl — and the cocaine trade is helping ruin Mexico — although this is the fault of Washington Drug Warriors and blood-lusting Mexican cartel bosses, not random cokeheads. 

So … given all the downsides … why do people want to use coke casually? 

Obviously, because coke feels good. But it goes beyond that. Coke has always felt good, and yet, even when coke was mixed in with Coca-Cola, use was probably lower. Why? 

Probably because modern life is so difficult, so disconnecting and unfulfilling and full of fake smiles and assholes on Harleys who gun the motor right next to your favorite outdoor food truck — the levity of a cocaine high, the easy confidence with friends and strangers can be a beam of sunshine in a darkened room — even if it's fake and you feel dumb in the morning. 

If people's lives are better, it's been documented 100 times, they don't use as much of any drug. And with anxiety and depression skyrocketing, people are welcoming cocaine to the party.  

Here's one of the best summations of this argument, from Yohan Hari