Jamie Johnson at Vanity Fair wrote a piece this week that begins with a joke he heard at a Christmas party:
I watched a close friend of mine re-enact a depraved but funny maneuver he had seen an elderly man perform earlier that evening. Using both his index and middle fingers, he pulled up the tip of his nose to give me a clear view of the base of his nostrils and said, “This is a furnace. It needs wood.” The gesture and the words, he explained, were a veteran cocaine user’s way of expressing his urgent need for some additional holiday cheer.
According to Johnson, the elderly elite—hoping to keep the ’70s alive, perhaps—is much closer to the picture of excess Hollywood has painted than most people realize. (Here’s to you, Jack Nicholson.)
The idea of older, more mature, much wiser men regularly using cocaine as much as Johnson claims is shocking. What complicates the matter is that it may not even be true: a study by the Office of National Drug Control Policy said only 0.5 percent of people who used cocaine in the past month were 35 or older.
But what bothers me is the way Johnson portrays this drug excess:
One thing is certain: the people still partying like John Belushi in Animal House late into their years must have remarkable constitutions. It’s a special creature who can Burn Wood in the Furnace all night and nevertheless manage to function at the office or take care of the grandchildren.
With confidence like this, it’s almost hard to disagree. But should we be describing an addiction with phrases like “remarkable constitutions” or referring to these men as “special creatures,” placing them into an almost heroic light? Is the cocaine these men sneak in country-club restrooms really that remarkable?
Image Valerie Everett/Flickr