Drug addict survey completely upends old stereotypes about users

Drug addict survey completely upends old stereotypes about users

VicesFebruary 05, 2018 By Reilly Capps

Around 80 to 90 percent of drug users have jobs. They like eggs for breakfast. They work in sales, engineering and managerial.

Those are the findings from a survey of 1,057 people who use drugs by Take 5 Media Group for Addictions.com, which is upending some of the negative stereotypes that demonize users of drugs, in a way we don't demonize drinkers.

Drug folks don't live in dumpsters. They aren't in jail. They're not insane, not losers. They get seven or 10 hours of sleep per night. They work most days.

This tracks with what I've noticed reporting about drugs for Rooster Magazine, where I've met hundreds of drug lovers, users, misusers and relishers. Sure, sometimes they talk a little faster or slower than the average person; sometimes they dress a little funny; but on average drug people are normal folks.

Eric Pieper, for instance, managed to graduate from the University of Colorado's Leeds School of Business, then hold down a series of jobs for corporations, all while addicted to heroin, doctor's pain pills and pharma's benzos, and speed balls — heroin and cocaine mixed. For a decade, he did that.

Lauren Ciovacco, an addictions counselor in Boulder, says that his clients were shockingly normal.

"Most have jobs and are normal people and are in school," Ciovacco says. Most of the clients at the Living Well Transitions center were upper class, Ciovacco says.

The survey broke down its findings by drug, and found some differences.

  • In how often they get fucked up at work: 60 percent of cocaine folks use on the job; only 23 percent of hallucinogen people do.

  • In how much they spend a day on their habit: opiate users pay $27 per day, meth users $35, cocaine users $33 and hallucinogen users $16.

  • In what time they go to bed: cocaine people go to bed late — 2:40 a.m. Hallucinogen users go to bed early — 10:30 p.m.

None of those things are out of the ordinary.

Americans used to pretend that drug use was unusual, something forbidden and rare. They had good reason to: jail cells are full of folks who told a narc-y neighbor that they like to get fucked up.

But with the Internet allowing people to post their real drug use online, the reality of use is becoming clearer than ever. And while the survey was funded by addiction.com, not everybody who does drugs is addicted. During the weekends. On the jobs. In the evenings. Around their kids. Alone.

Some use is (pretty) harmless. Some isn't. Overdoses are rising faster than ever before. Heroin deaths have seen a 533 percent increase over the last 15 years. 

One of the challenges and opportunities is identifying which drugs are ok and which are truly dangerous, so we can make smart choices about use. 

It's a druggy world. And we all live in it.