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Peter - Interview 01

Age at interview: 27
Brief Outline: Peter doesn't distinguish between legal and illegal drugs. He thinks the first substance he tried was alcohol. When drunk he tends to forget what happened and this worries him. He smokes cannabis regularly but his main concern is alcohol.
Background: Peter works full time in publicity. He is single and has one child. White British.

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Peter doesn’t distinguish between legal and illegal drugs and said that probably the first one he tried when he was fifteen was alcohol. As a teenager, he drank only occasionally, less than once a week. But he became a heavy drinker between the ages of 18 and 20. There was also a period of a few months where he would drink every day and get drunk two or three times a week.
 
Apart from alcohol, Peter said that the other drugs he has experienced have been tobacco, cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy but he mainly continues using cannabis. He tried ecstasy once and used cocaine on occasions when he has been drunk, but he was not really interested in them.
 
From the age of fourteen, he and his friends from school started smoking cannabis because they were curious and it was easily available. They would usually put their money together to buy some and smoked it with tobacco. Peter said that from the age of sixteen he started to smoke it more regularly. And for the last eleven years he has continued smoking cannabis. How frequently he uses it varies; sometimes he only smokes at weekends and other times every couple of days. He prefers to smoke it in the company of friends rather than on his own.
 
Peter has no concerns about the possible health effects of cannabis. He believes that alcohol does more harm than cannabis. In fact, his main concern is what he called his ‘unhealthy’ relationship with alcohol. He is worried about his behaviour and regular blackouts when under the influence of alcohol, where he is unable to remember anything afterwards. Peter tries to avoid situations that may end up with him drinking a lot so he doesn’t go to bars or clubs regularly. He sometimes goes to the pub with his mates from work at lunchtime, but other times he goes to the gym instead. Peter says that the influence of alcohol on British social life is ‘massive’ and lads feel under pressure to drink even when they would prefer not to.
 
Peter works full-time and has one child. He believes that his cannabis smoking doesn’t harm anybody. The mother of his child blames his cannabis use for their relationship break-up but he disagrees with this.

 

 

Peter started smoking weed at a time when he was socialising a lot.

Peter started smoking weed at a time when he was socialising a lot.

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Was there anything in particular going on in your life when you were 18 and started smoking cannabis?
 

When I started smoking it more regularly? I’d say other than availability there’s nothing pressuring me to do it. I wasn’t, I wasn’t depressed or anything. No I was going through like one of the best times of my life probably actually. I was a lot more confident than I’d ever been. I was doing. I obviously because I’d had issues when I finished school and then gone to the college but I was doing well with my work placement. I had my part-time job at Burger King. So I was quite popular with the girls at college so I was. I was going through a good time in my life really. So no there was no pressure. There was nothing making me smoke.  

 

Peter started smoking cannabis more regularly when he was able to buy it from his cousin.

Peter started smoking cannabis more regularly when he was able to buy it from his cousin.

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Probably I didn’t start regularly. Again I intermittently used cannabis after that and I probably started regularly smoking around 19 at which point one of my cousins was selling it. So he was, it was a lot more readily available to me from then.
 
So obviously because it was more readily available it was something I enjoyed doing. I’d buy it and I’d smoke it.
 
How often were you, I mean?
 
I’d probably say I was purchasing it once a week. Smoking it every second day perhaps daily. Some weeks it might be every day. Some weeks it would be like every second day or something like that.
 
Some weeks I might not smoke all through the week and only smoke on a weekend.
 
In which situations were you likely to smoke?
 
Social situations.
 
Social?
 
Social situations. No I don’t think cannabis is the right drug to smoke on your own because I think it makes you consider things. It makes you think about things a lot and I think if you sat on your own you’re not having that social interaction.
 

I mean I don’t know actually. I smoke it on my own now. Perhaps at that age it’s not the right thing. You’re very insecure with yourself as an adolescent. 

 

Peter is programmer and says that smoking weed helps him to come up with solutions to technical problems at work.

Peter is programmer and says that smoking weed helps him to come up with solutions to technical problems at work.

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What are your motivations for continuing smoking?
 
I think that I have a nicotine addiction because sometimes I get an urge to have a joint. So I do think I must have some form of nicotine addiction. I enjoy smoking cannabis. A lot of my friends continue to smoke cannabis so there’s the social aspect. I like the effects of it. I don’t know it’s hard to put into words actually what the effects are but I think, I can really think when I smoke cannabis. I mean I come up with some of my, because my job’s programming I’ve come up with some of my best solutions. I don’t actually do the programming whilst I’m under the influence but sometimes I’ve been sat at home thinking about a problem I’ve had a work and that’s when I figured it out whilst I’ve been high I tend to read a lot, things like that. I don’t know I, for me I think it enhances me. Whilst I don’t think it’s a drug of choice for everyone I think in my instance it probably enhances me.
 
And now how often do you use?
 
I, these days I’d probably say 3 to 4 times a week, 3 to 4 times a week only ever on a night once my son’s sleeping.
 
Has having a son now sort of made you think about this or no?
 
Well it’s made me not want to. It’s made me not smoke. Like occasionally I’d smoke when I got straight in from work before I had a son. I wouldn’t do that with my son. One I don’t think you should smoke around children and two I wouldn’t want to be in an altered state of mind whilst with my son. You know I don’t think it’s fair he should get to see me. You know at the end of the day if I’ve got something that I get pleasure out and enjoy doing but I can do away from him then I should do I away from him not around him.
 
Would you like kind of to stop smoking?
 
No.
 
No?
 

In fact maybe I’d like to stop smoking, maybe I’d prefer another method of ingestion. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of a vaporiser. Perhaps I’d prefer to vaporise than smoke.  

 

Peter thinks that it's difficult to prove either way if cannabis causes schizophrenia.

Peter thinks that it's difficult to prove either way if cannabis causes schizophrenia.

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Does your mum have an opinion about it?
 
Oh yeah. I think my mum she is what I’d call anti-cannabis. I think her opinion’s skewed slightly. You know like humans look for connections in everything. She had a brother who had mental health issues and he also was a cannabis user so she makes the assumption that those two things are linked.
 
Now I’m not a psychologist or I don’t do anything like that so I can’t say whether they are or they aren’t but I think it’s just as. I think it’s just as bad to make an assumption either way to just assume something like that whether, whether you can say or it isn’t because in the same light that one person could say perhaps my uncle could say well he smoked weed. He’s got a mental health issue or I could say, well I’m a productive member of society. I’ve got a good job. I smoke weed. You know like those kind of arguments no one can ever win them.
 
But do you have any concerns about kind of the possibility of being sort of related?
 
No.
 
No? Have you sort of read about the possible connection between?
 
Yeah I mean. I mean yeah I’ve read up on. I know that there’s. I know that... a person who has schizophrenia or psychosis is more likely statistically to be a cannabis user. I also know of, there’s been a study that shows perhaps that long term use throughout adolescence can have an effect which. I did start using in adolescence. I wouldn’t call it long term heavy use during adolescence. I think generally it’s difficult to prove either way.
 
It’s difficult to prove either way as far as whether someone actually, whether that’s the cause because just because something proceeds another it doesn’t mean that it caused it. But I think if I ever had any doubt in my mind that I thought things weren’t right in my brain then perhaps it might be the first thing I’d look at. But I’m [phew] I don’t know, I’m a pretty stable guy.
 
I do go to Amsterdam once or twice a year to enjoy cannabis which is a bit of time away from my son with just me and whatever friends that I go there with.
 
So you go with your friends?
 
Yeah, yeah.
 
That’s maybe like once or twice a year we do that for like a day or two.
 
So how do you feel sort of when you are there?
 
I get. You know like because don’t get me wrong. I think there can be anxiety occasionally with marihuana use. And occasionally I get anxious over there as opposed to here because you’re doing it out in the open.
 
There?
 

Yeah as opposed to here because obviously it’s so culturally engrained in me in this country that I must hide this. I don’t want people to see this. You know it’s not something that you do in public. It’s not really socially accepted here. So then to go into a country where it is socially accepted to an extent it’s, it’s an odd feeling. I mean actually the last time I was there I was quite paranoid because I was like. I don’t know why, just because it’s so out in the open I just like. I mean I’m sure if I was there for a week, I’ve only ever been for a few days, I mean I’m not, in fact I’ve not had that every time I’ve gone. It’s only happened twice where I’ve got a bit like anxious in one coffee shop and then the last time I went as well. But it’

 

Peter has concerns about carrying cannabis but is more worried about the police associating him with his friend, a dealer.

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Peter has concerns about carrying cannabis but is more worried about the police associating him with his friend, a dealer.

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Aren’t you concerned that you might get into trouble by just...?
 
By association. Yes and no. I don’t commit any crimes other than possession of cannabis. Obviously I commit that crime when I have it which I think it’s only going to get me a caution anyway if I was ever to be in trouble with the police or that. 
 
So sometimes I might be worried if we’re in the car if we’re driving about in a car and we’ve got a large amount of drugs on then that might be a concern. And I suppose there’s obviously the concern that socially like with work and things like that. But I consider him my best friend. I consider him my best friend and I think it would be selfish of me to end that friendship or not continue that friendship on the basis of my concerns of being in trouble with the law because we have a loyalty to each other and we love each other. 
 
 

Peter had ’blackouts’ during lunchtime drinking sessions at work and couldn’t remember what he’d done once he’d sobered up.

Peter had ’blackouts’ during lunchtime drinking sessions at work and couldn’t remember what he’d done once he’d sobered up.

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And I’d say as I got older my relationship with alcohol has deteriorated not improved. So I’m not a regular drinker because I don’t have a healthy relationship with alcohol. I’ve a tendency to perhaps if I have a few drinks I can end up having too many. I have blackouts.
 
Where I don’t remember what’s happened for the evening. I could have done some really uncharacteristic behaviour. So...
 
How much do you need to drink to?
 
I couldn’t. I couldn’t tell you. I really couldn’t tell you. There’s no hard and fast rules. Sometimes I’ve had a few drinks and then. It depends to be I think the speed at which the alcohol is drunk. If it’s something like shooting alcohol shots back rather than perhaps drinking a pint of lager that’s more likely to cause me to, to kind of have these blackouts but I’ve had some really uncharacteristic behaviour. I’ve been arrested. And yeah I’ve been into some trouble there. Been kicked out of various bars, nightclubs. The only reason I actually continued to drink is because social reasons, social purposes, particularly working in an office environment and things like that, you know. It’s not just what you do in your job that counts. There’s also the social aspect of it.
 
Ok so you need to?
 

So that’s, that’s probably the only reason I actually continued to actually drink alcohol because I do think I have an unhealthy relationship with it. So I generally don’t. I don’t go out drinking regularly. I just go for lunchtime drinks occasionally with people from work now. And maybe once every few months I might have an actual night out of drinking because I don’t trust myself on alcohol. I don’t like what it does to me. 

 

Peter’s ex blamed his cannabis use for their relationship problems but he says the problems were still there when he quit.

Peter’s ex blamed his cannabis use for their relationship problems but he says the problems were still there when he quit.

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I have done a. I didn't have a trouble-filled relationship with my child, just the mother of him, very. It was a hard relationship. I don’t know and occasionally because things would get so bad that I was, I was probably suffering with depression at times during the relationship because we had a very bad relationship. I was very unhappy. We argued a lot and occasionally she’d convince me that all of our problems were down to the fact that I used cannabis. So occasionally I have stopped and I’ve stopped for three, four months but then what I realised is during those three, four months actually the problem was our relationship. Like the only thing that cannabis did is make me a bit more numb or zoned out from some of the issues. It would make me not face some of the issues actually that in reality were there, the problems existing in our relationship. It was almost as if I was using it to dull some of the, the pain or ill feeling that I had because of this relationship.
 
But according to her, she put it down to...?
 
Yeah she blamed it on that but obviously I, it. The times when I’d stopped smoking cannabis I’d see clearly that these problems were still there. The problems didn’t go away because I’d stopped smoking cannabis.
 
 

Peter explains why he was so bored and easily distracted at school but managed to get the training he needed later on.

Peter explains why he was so bored and easily distracted at school but managed to get the training he needed later on.

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So you stayed at school and went to college and?
 
Well yeah I mean I stayed at, what I did I stayed at school actually I probably shouldn’t have stayed at that school because I went to a terrible school and actually like I came from a bad area. I went to a terrible school but I was actually considered quite bright but I didn’t live up to my potential in terms of academically because I was easily distracted, bored. It wasn’t really challenging for me being at a school like that because I. You’ve got to understand it. You’ve got to teach to the level of everybody. You can’t teach to the level of one person. So I was finding myself constantly bored at school anyway because it wasn’t challenging. So actually I stayed at sixth form. I started ‘A’ levels but I’d already got to the situation where parts I’d had antagonistic relationship with a lot of the teachers anyway so. I should have gone to college, is what I should have done at the time.
 
But what I did after that I went to a, I went to place called [name] Post Training which basically it’s like a training college. So they’re going to train you how to do either administration or IT. And then they were going to get you placed within an office, which is how I got my first job, my first real job. I’d had a part-time job at Burger King before that. So, yeah, after I went there it’s like one day a week college, four days a week in an office environment. And then since then I’ve jus. I’ve been in the same industry.
 
Do you think that drugs or alcohol had something to do with your schooling, had an effect on your schooling?
 

No. I wasn’t a, no. No I wasn’t using alcohol to... or any drugs to a degree where it could have affected my schooling. I honestly believe my schooling was. I don’t want to paint myself as a victim but I honestly think I was a victim of the circumstance there. I think had I been at the right school I think I could have achieved a lot academically. 

 

Peter uses cannabis regularly and doesn't have any problem fitting in with different groups of...

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Peter uses cannabis regularly and doesn't have any problem fitting in with different groups of...

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So the friends, your group that you smoke with are people you have known for a long time?
 
Yeah, I mean there’s probably, there’s probably. I have two groups probably that I’m in, smoke with. Like I know various other people who I’ve, might share the occasional joint with but that’s not regular. My two regular groups would be the guy who I actually purchase from. He’s a childhood friend and his sort of group of friends who’ve [phew] perhaps they don’t live their life the same way that I do. They’re from a similar background to me but I choose to live a legal lifestyle. I choose to go to work every day. They’re in like generally various jobs within drugs industry, shall we call it. I don’t know. I don’t judge them for that. That’s, everyone’s got a choice and you know the circumstances aren’t the best. Being a drug dealer is actually quite a lucrative career if, especially if you come from a poor background. You know it’s, it’s an easy option. And then I have another group which is, consists of a cousin, his housemate, a friend who I’ve know for about 10 years, and another friend that I’ve known for about 5 years. But I think what it is the other group they sort of, these guys are all working guys. They’ve either been to, a lot of them have been to university, things like that. The other group, the kind of drug dealer group I’ll call them I probably share more of a similar background to, but these other guys I share more in common with so the conversations that we have might be a lot more intellectual so to speak or we might discuss books, things like that. We’ll play video games, you know, we still do the whole boys thing but it’s like quieter.
 
 

Peter and his friend managed to get hold of alcohol despite being under-age.

Peter and his friend managed to get hold of alcohol despite being under-age.

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Ok Let me think. I mean I suppose my first ever experience of taking a drug that wasn’t for medicine will probably have been alcohol. I tasted it as a child. I’ve tasted, obviously I’ve tasted it as a child. It’s a big part of British culture. So yeah maybe a family party or something the first time I tasted it. I didn’t become intoxicated. I didn’t drink enough to be intoxicated but I tasted alcohol as a child.
 

I probably got drunk off alcohol, intoxicated at maybe around 12 or 13 with friends from school. Basically I think we stood outside a shop. We asked people walking past where they were going in, were they going. Eventually someone did. I think it was something like cider. We drunk about a litre or two each. I can’t remember. It was a long time ago. I was, I was very drunk. I can’t really remember that much of that day.  

 

Peter got very drunk and ended up in trouble with the police after he got into an argument, involving an air rifle, with some neighbours.

Peter got very drunk and ended up in trouble with the police after he got into an argument, involving an air rifle, with some neighbours.

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So we’d been drinking continuous since about midday about 12 o’clock. We went on a coach so we were given alcohol as soon as we got on the coach and then it was a free bar all day at the races. I think. No it wasn’t that day. Well I did a few bets and things like that at the races but then we arrived back to city. Went, continued drinking at a bar and then a friend called, a mutual friend of mine and someone else who I was working with and we decided we’d go back to my place. We were going to smoke some cannabis and we were going to play some video games. Now one of my friends actually, the guy at, my colleague actually at the time he got a call from a girl who wanted him to go visit her. So he went to see her and me and the other guy set off in a taxi. And then we arrived where I lived at the time and we got out. And then for whatever reason I, this, this bit I can’t, I can’t actually remember but for some reason anyway I got into an argument with one of the neighbours.
 
And then I went in the house anyway and the, the friend of mine who I’d met at the time he was a lot younger than me, he was probably about 4 years younger than me so I was about 22. He was maybe about 18. Now he I had an air rifle and he always wanted to play with it. A lot of the younger guys who came around they wanted to play with it. I don’t know maybe a bit excited by it. I mean. And then he was pointing out of the door which, not. Under the influence of alcohol. If I wasn’t under the influence of alcohol I would never let someone point an air rifle out of my door. I’m not that sort of irresponsible sort of. But the neighbour who I’d previously argued with thought that he was trying to shoot their windows. So further arguments ensued at which point It ended for whatever reason. And I’d gone in the house but then for whatever reason those neighbours that I’d argued with had called some friends or actually one of the neighbour’s parents. So there was six guys at my door and they were trying to kick the door in. I lived in a back-to-back house. I couldn’t go out of the back so I picked up a weapon and chased them off, an iron bar. At which point the police had already been phoned because of the earlier commotion. Police came into the street. I had an iron bar in my hands. That’s an offensive weapons charge.
 
Ok so when it happened you were taken to the police station?
 
Yeah, yeah I was in the police station for the next 18 hours.
 
And charged with?
 
Yeah I was charged with offensive weapons.
 
Do you had to go to court and?
 

R'  Yeah, yeah. 

 

Peter felt light headed after his first joint and wondered if it was the effect of smoking...

Peter felt light headed after his first joint and wondered if it was the effect of smoking...

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How old were you when you first tried it?
 
I was about 14.
 
Again can you tell me about the context? Who offered it to you?
 
Yeah it was, it was school friends. I had a little puff. It didn’t seem to affect me to be honest as far as I could tell. At that point I didn’t feel any of the effects.

So somebody just offered it to you?
 
Yeah I mean it was, it was quite common to smoke it at school. A lot of people smoked it. I had some. It didn’t really affect me. I didn’t really know and then I tried it in intermittently between then and probably. It might have been just later on in, as a 14, maybe or 15 or 16 I can’t remember exactly but I know that I tried it intermittently again with limited effects. I didn’t, I couldn’t really identify a high at that point.

I can’t say whether I liked it at that point. I really can’t say whether I liked it or I didn’t like it. It affected me. I knew I were, I actually. No it did affect me but I think the nicotine was the initial effect that I identified which I confused with the cannabis because generally we mixed cannabis and nicotine together to smoke it together, tobacco together, to smoke it together. And because I remember a head rush. Now actually now as an experienced cannabis user I could say that’s. It was actually probably from the amount of nicotine that I’d had at once because it. I think cannabis takes a lot longer to affect you than nicotine and that. It’s not something that I’d associate with it, a light-headed head rush. I would associate that more with the nicotine effect 

 

Peter feels more pressure to drink a lot when he’s out with other young men. He says that even bar tenders seem to disapprove when he orders a non-alcoholic drink.

Peter feels more pressure to drink a lot when he’s out with other young men. He says that even bar tenders seem to disapprove when he orders a non-alcoholic drink.

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It always happens the same way though it starts like I’ll go for a lunchtime drink and someone will end up convincing me to have one and. You know there’s a lot of pressure on you culturally to drink in this country, a lot of pressure.
 
What will happen to a young man like you if you say no I’m going to have water for a change.
 
I mean to be honest I can, I’ve gone plenty of times and I’ve drunk cranberry juice or pomegranate juice. I mean I’ve done it plenty of times. You always get a bit of a funny look from the person behind the bar if you’re male and ask for a drink like that. I always find that you’re, they’re always surprised at a male ordering a drink like that I find. And I think I’d probably feel more comfortable doing that drinking with females than males.
 
I’d feel a little bit more peer pressure if I was in a bar with males and everyone had a pint of lager and I had a glass of cranberry juice, for instance.
 
Ok because there is this image of sort of tough guys, drinker?
 

Oh yeah and I’m generally as a male I’m quite competitive. You know I like to partake in most male activities. Like I like to go to the gym, do sports and various stuff like that so. 

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