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London’s top ten drug-culture moments

Posted at 5:15 pm, February 23, 2013 in Fun London

1. ‘Confessions of an English Opium-Eater’ (1821) Laudanum
Had it been called ‘I Was a Late Georgian Skag Addict’, essayist Thomas De Quincey’s account of his escapades on the opiate laudanum might have been less fondly regarded by literary history. As it is, the passage of time and the gorgeousness of De Quincey’s prose have led to the book becoming a much-studied classic, with a blue plaque now erected at the Covent Garden address where he did some of his best tripping.

2. Sherlock Holmes (various adventures, 1887-1927) Cocaine
Much of what made Victorian Britain great was achieved by extremely self-confident men off their tits on various substances. And Arthur Conan Doyle’s London detective was no exception: his ‘only vice’ was a habit of injecting himself with a ‘7 percent solution’ of the white stuff.

3. ‘Performance’ (1968) Hallucinogens
In Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg’s trippy 1968 classic, jaded Notting Hill rock star Turner (Mick Jagger) decides that the best way to help Chas (James Fox) get in touch with his sensitive side is to make him take loads of hallucinogenic fungi – nice one, Mr Turner.

4. ‘Grange Hill’ (1986) Heroin (above)
Phil Redmond’s long-running, north- London-set children’s soap was so heroically devoted to tackling ‘issues’ that a major plank of its ninth season was a hysterical storyline – penned by Anthony Minghella! – that saw 15-year-old Samuel ‘Zammo’ McGuire consumed by full-blown smack addiction. Even more disturbing was ‘Just Say No’, the pop song spin-off that featured an excruciating rap courtesy of Mmoloki Chrystie, aka Zammo’s best mate Kevin.

5. ‘Withnail and I’ (1987) Weed

‘I invented it in Camberwell and it looks like a carrot,’ is how the cult comedy’s Danny the dealer explains his colossal 12-paper spliff, not unreasonably, since it’s called the ‘Camberwell Carrot’.

6. The M25 (1988) You name it
Techno-touting siblings Phil and Paul Hartnoll called themselves Orbital in reference to the Greater London Orbital motorway. The M25 was the main artery of the South East’s illegal party network of rave’s heyday. Apparently some drug consumption was involved in this.

7. ‘Brass Eye’ (1997) Cake
In 1997 a new menace hit the streets of the capital: cake, a drug so harmful that it caused one girl to throw up her own pelvic bone. Fortunately satirist Chris Morris was on hand with his crusading TV show ‘Brass Eye’. He persuaded the likes of Noel Edmonds, Rolf Harris and Bernard Manning to front a campaign warning kids off. It worked. Since then, there have been no known cake fatalities.

8. ‘Spaced’ (1999) Pills of some sort

Nostalgia-tinged episode ‘Epiphanies’ of Simon Pegg’s sitcom contains the only realistic clubbing scene ever, as Tim, Daisy and chums reluctantly go to a King’s Cross techno night and proceed to get goofy. Also features a scene in which Tim’s friend Tyres has a drugs flashback and dances to the sound of a kettle boiling.

9. ‘Layer Cake’ (2004) Cocaine, ecstasy
Before he joined MI6, Daniel Craig starred as the unnamed coke baron protagonist of Matthew Vaughn’s directorial debut. A reasonable man who dislikes violence, he’s the epitome of the ethical coke dealer – until he gets involved with some insane Serbian people who insist on ruining things for everyone.

10. ‘Attack the Block’ (2011) Weed
Pity the extraterrestrial chimp things in Joe Cornish’s monster movie, who invade a south London council block that’s home to drug dealer Hi-Hatz. His arsenal of weapons and fortified ‘weed room’ give the film’s motley crew of heroes more than a fighting chance against the fluffy aliens. Andrezj Lukowski

Read the results of our drugs survey now.

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