It’s high time we were honest with ourselves about the kind of people who use drugs and why. Every time a teenager dies at the hands of our prohibitionist policies, newspapers rush to make excuses for their drug use, as though excuses needed to be made. They were peer-pressured, or misinformed, or in the case of Australia’s most recent high profile drug death, it was simply “out of character.” Apparently it is never the case that they are intelligent human beings who made an informed choice about how to live their lives. The popular understanding of drug use and drug users is a farce, and people like Georgina Bartter must be explained away to preserve it..
Her parents say MDMA use was out of character for one reason: cognitive dissonance. She did not correspond to the popular image of a drug user, so it must have been an anomaly; it had to have been ‘out of character’ for she was not possessed of the derogatory character we’ve erroneously ascribed to drug users.
She is demonstrative of a confronting fact: this image, this ascribed character, is dead WRONG. We’ve been slapped in the face for five decades with emotionally confronting images: the heroin addict in the gutter, the toothless smile of the meth abuser. Georgina is a necessary antidote: she is an intellectually confronting image: a kind, intelligent, sensible and respectable young lady who decided some MDMA would improve her night. She is no anomaly; this is precisely the character of hundreds of thousands of young people across the planet who have reached, are reaching, or will reach the same decision. This, in the final analysis, is one of the many faces of recreational drug use.
This is a self-perpetuating taboo. The recreational drug user is spurned on the basis of a lazy caricature: the emaciated, alley-dwelling scum bag. The general population holds a view of the recreational drug user that is wildly off base, and it is because of this view that those who use drugs do not do so openly; and it is, in the ultimate irony, because they do not do so openly that the general population is allowed to hold this view. It is time the general population saw one of the real faces of recreational drug use: Georgina Bartter.
Drug users are not some terrifying ‘Other’, John Q Citizen; they are your sons and daughters. Face this fact like adults, you intellectual cowards. Stop burying the reality of drug use under self-serving lies. Stop using phrases like ‘out of character’ to pretend people like Georgina are anomalies – they are not.