People talk about drugs all the time, most often unbeknownst to themselves. I’d wager however that if you were to ask a random person, whether they think they talk about drugs very often, they would most likely reply “no” or “not much”. My generalization is based on my own professional experiences delivering drug education and prevention programs with young people and adults. I talk to people on a daily basis about drugs, all types of drugs. In Ireland, as in many other places, illicit drug use carries huge stigma. When I begin a drug conversation, no matter whether it is with a young person or adult, invariably when I say drug … they think illicit. This reveals much about drug(s) as a social construct, and as word that is hugely value laden. Drug talk in Ireland is taboo, especially when talking about personal drug use or family drug use, and even more so when such drug use is illicit.
However, Irish people generally have no problem talking about a stranger’s illicit drug use. Nor for that matter do they have any difficulty in talking about alcohol, in fact many revel in it. It’s a regular occurrence to hear Irish people talk about being on a night out and how much alcohol they drank, and how drunk they were. Irish people have an exhaustive list of weird and wonderful words and phrases for being drunk – “hammered”, “squiffy”, “pissed”, “blotto-ed”, “skuttered”, “gee-eyed”, “bo-jangled”, “twisted”, “bolloxed”, “three sheets to the wind”, “langered”, “ossafied”, “lamped” and the list goes on! This is drug talk, yet very few Irish would consider it as such. This is because very few Irish would include alcohol in their construct of a drug.
My own PhD research is interested in Irish men’s views on men’s recreational use of illicit drugs, and how illicit recreational drug use contributes to the construction, display or maintenance of specific masculinities.