Preferred Name: Max
Max is studying for a tertiary qualification and plans to become a rock star or a screenwriter when he completes his studies. He’s single and lives with his parents. He describes his ethnic background as ‘Caucasian’: he was born in Australia, as was one of his parents. The other was born in England.
A few years before the interview, Max’s father died and he found it difficult to cope with the loss. Feeling depressed and anxious, he started smoking cannabis every day. He then sought medical help and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. He was prescribed antidepressant medication and attended counselling. During this period he stopped smoking cannabis and took time off his studies. He now smokes cannabis every now and then, mostly with friends. Max has an active social life and goes partying a couple of times a week. At these events, he takes MDMA, mostly on weekends but occasionally during the week if he’s attending a party.
A few years before the interview, Max’s father died and he found it difficult to cope with the loss: he felt depressed and anxious, and was experiencing audio-visual hallucinations. To cope with the ‘depression and anxiety that stemmed from [his] dad’s death’, he started smoking cannabis every day. He then sought medical help and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. He was prescribed antidepressant medication and attended counselling. During this period he stopped smoking cannabis, took time off his studies and also practised mindfulness meditation. After about a month of taking antidepressants, Max gradually reduced his dose and eventually stopped taking them. He no longer feels depressed and isn’t on any medication. He now smokes cannabis ‘every now and then with mates’.
About a year before the interview, Max tried MDMA at a music festival and then started taking it every weekend when he and his friends were overseas. As he explains, ‘it become more like a habitual sort of thing […] but it was more when me and some friends were overseas because it’s really cheap over there, a lot better than it is here [in Australia]’. He now takes MDMA about twice a week, if he can afford it, mostly over weekends when he’s not studying, but occasionally during the week if he’s attending a party. A couple of months before the interview Max took a break from MDMA for a few months. Commenting on his experience of taking a break, he says, ‘[MDMA] is not like something that you ever feel is really a need […] It’s really not that big an issue. It just enhances partying. It’s not vital to it.’
Max says his late father’s openness and willingness to discuss his drug consumption meant that Max had a ‘much more open mind and clearer kind of education about drugs and what’s okay and what not to do’. This has shaped his own drug use in that he says he’ll never take what he calls ‘drugs of dependence: crack cocaine, heroin and ice’.
Reflecting on his plans for the future, he says he dreams of becoming a rock star and his ‘secondary dream’ is to be a screenwriter. At the time of the interview, he was also considering pursuing film or music journalism. He has no plans to stop smoking cannabis and taking MDMA; as he puts it, ‘I’ll continue to do it as long as I’ve got the money to do it’.
To cope with a number of mental health issues, Max (M, 20, studying, cannabis and party drugs) cut back on cannabis and saw a counsellor. (Note: strong language)
I smoked [cannabis] a lot for two and a half years. After my dad died, I started smoking a lot more. I smoked regularly before, but I started smoking like every day for about two years […] So I had to cut back […] a bit, because I was using it as a crutch for depression and anxiety that stemmed from my dad’s death. So I don’t smoke it quite as much [now], because it brings a bit of that back. But I’ll have a joint every now and then with mates, but I just don’t smoke it by myself all that much […] I stopped and then [the depression and anxiety] all hit me as a wave, so I went and saw someone about it and they told me, ‘Yeah, that’s probably all the emotion that you weren’t feeling, you were kind of numbing [it] with weed and there it is’.
[I was having] visual hallucinations, a few auditory [hallucinations], a bit of audio-visual stuff. I was having trouble sleeping because of it. It’s hard to sleep when you think things are flying at you and shit. It was confronting, but they put me on some [medication] and counselled me for a bit […Going through counselling] was kind of shitty and no fun, but it had to be done.
According to Max, the process of recovery differs from person to person but usually involves reducing or stopping consumption. (Note: strong language)
[Recovery is] different from person to person. Some people can do it without the books. Some people […] need the 12 steps and some people can just say, ‘Enough, I’m fucking done with this,’ and just stop. And those people, I respect the kind of willpower that that takes […] because it’s not easy. I’ve seen the recovery process as well and it’s hard. It’s a hard thing for someone to have to go through, doing that. What it does to their body and their mind […] it’s difficult.
It depends on the situation. Personally, I believe we should have safe injecting sites because that would decrease not only the overdose deaths but disease transmission and those sort of deaths […] and that’s a perfectly acceptable way for someone to recover from drugs – by cutting down and stopping. That’s what I’m doing with ciggies, sort of smoking less and less until I don’t want it any more.
Max says he really enjoys taking MDMA, but avoids taking it every day because of the comedowns he experiences. (Note: strong language)
[I take MDMA] like two times a week […] not like during the week because, you know, I [need to] function, I have to do shit. Yeah [on the] weekends, [I take it] as much as my pocket will allow it, because I don’t have much money […I take it with friends at] parties, clubs, festivals […a] couple of times in the park or beach, which is heaps of fun but you need music, you need something to dance to […] The way the drug makes you feel, it makes you feel like moving. It gives you energy, but at the same time it’s euphoric […] It always feels better to dance, I love dancing […] It’s a great thing for meeting new people as well. You always seem to […] make all these new friends […] Just talking to people is awesome. [Taking MDMA] makes that heaps of fun.
It’s not something that you do every day because that’s like near impossible. The comedowns don’t allow for that. It [would] just make it horrible. You wouldn’t want to […] You feel progressively worse […for] every day that you do it in a row. And after like a big festival, like three days [and] three nights partying […] you need a break for a week or two […] You feel kind of sick. It’s like being hungover except, like, worse […It] is worth it, definitely, but it wouldn’t be worth it if you did it every day because you wouldn’t be able to function within a regular society, or it’d be really hard to. I wouldn’t be able to function doing that, and […] it’d make it less fun.