10 Mothers On Why They Take Recreational Drugs

Illustration: Assa Ariyoshi
Ed. note: The following contains first-hand accounts of some women's experiences with drugs that are currently prohibited under UK law. It is important to note that all drug-taking carries an element of risk, and that the effects of a drug vary from person to person. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behaviour.
Some mums take illegal drugs. That sentence might make your insides tighten with rage and disgust or it possibly makes you nod your head with a casual ‘Duh, of course’. In researching this topic I rarely found a middle-ground response.
"Parents disappearing upstairs and taking Coke, or smoking / inhaling cannabis while their kids are playing in other rooms, seems to be getting more and more 'usual' at parties or get togethers round here," begins one thread on Mumsnet. The majority of the comments that followed were in the ‘You need to report this to the authorities’ camp, with one lone mother asking ‘Why do I never get invited to these parties?’
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35% of UK adults have taken recreational drugs and 21% of those continue to do so, which is about three million people. And many active drug users are upper middle-class, with 40% being in social grades A and B.
It always worries me when it’s obvious something is happening but no one is talking about it, and I think we can apply that to mothers taking recreational drugs. There is no safe space for mums to discuss any vice. Being a mum is meant to be enough.
Here is a collection of anecdotes from anonymous mums who have taken drugs recreationally. Think of it as like a Mumsnet forum but without a million people butting in with judgments. They’re varied stories and each elicited a different response in me, but my overall take from it was the need to stop vilifying any mum who shows a human flaw. More discussion, more support and a little more ‘Would you judge a dad for that behaviour too?’ is what’s needed. And as always: The safety of the kids comes first and as you’ll see in most of the below stories, that’s the case; taking drugs doesn’t always equal bad parenting.
Sarah
I take cocaine and MDMA very occasionally, but five years ago (while I was a mother) I took it about once a month, maybe more. I’m conflicted. I never saw myself still taking drugs when I was a mother. While they still feel like part of my life as a girl who still likes having fun, it never fit with the image I had in my mind of being a mum. My daughters are now teenage girls and I certainly don't want them taking drugs (or not for a long time, anyway), so I have these pangs of feeling like a hypocrite.
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Lou
Yes I have [taken drugs as a mother]. I feel fine about it – I am the same person I was before I had kids and so have not massively changed how I live/what I do. I have to plan ahead more and be less spontaneous and so inevitably take them less often. Taking drugs helps me unwind, connect and communicate with my husband. I think we can all feel a bit shady when we are hungover or on a comedown but on the whole I don't feel regret or shame.
I smoke weed (no tobacco) every now and then. I found it a great way to help me get in the moment when the kids were very little. It still does this now – helps me ignore the domestic banality. My husband and I take coke probably every other week, mainly just at home for the great sex. About three times a year I take ecstasy or MDMA, mainly if I’m going dancing and sometimes if I’m having friends over for a games night.
Lynette
Yes I have [taken drugs since having children]. More so with my first than my second, I think the shock of new parenthood meant I was keen to return to my old life of going out, being myself and feeling independent. We were lucky too as we were living very centrally in London so a gig, a couple of lines, gin and tonics and back home for midnight all felt like a beautiful thing. Actually we ended up having 'cokey Fridays' a few months after my son was born – half a gram, a few drinks and a sexy bunk-up became a weekly thing. We did that for a bunch of months. It really helped us hang out together in a way that wasn't all about our child. It was a bit messy but we liked it.
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Since my second, things have been more mellow but I did make a call to stop breastfeeding by New Year's Eve so I could take coke at my best friend's wedding. My daughter was seven weeks old. I know that sounds shocking but I hardly had any milk anyway after a boob reduction years before, so she was mainly formula-fed. I didn't take any coke after that until July.
The only bad experience I've had with coke was at my father-in-law's house where my partner and his dad and stepmum had racked some on a plate in the kitchen. It was three in the afternoon on Christmas Eve. I got really cross. Our 4-year-old was watching TV next door. I thought it was gross and inappropriate and they should wait until the kids went to bed, so I shouted at them. They all apologised but they didn't really understand why I was cross. They've always taken coke on Christmas Eve. My boyfriend said, "I'm sorry I upset you, but your parents drink booze on Xmas Eve, what's the difference?" I guess his dad taking drugs is a lifelong process of normalisation. I don't want that with my kids.
Eve
I took cocaine three times while breastfeeding. I pumped and dumped for about 18 hours after each time. It’s not ideal and I can’t imagine doing it if I have another kid but at the time I needed to feel connected to my friends again and drugs were a quick shortcut to that. Also the cocaine felt negligible to the amount of drugs I was pumped with during and after an emergency C-section.
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Helen
Since becoming a mum I’ve had one line of coke at a funeral, that’s it. My son was three and I was very early on in my second pregnancy (four weeks), although I didn't know. I felt awful when I found out. I used to take a whole load of drugs. I had a bit of a problem, and also had issues with booze. As soon as I was pregnant with my first child I gave up everything and didn't touch drugs or drink for years, to the point where I became obsessed about not doing it and hated other people drinking or taking drugs. With my second child I’m more relaxed and have drunk a fair amount, but still no drugs. I’d love a night out getting off my head on pills and coke, but I wouldn't do it. For me, I think I've had my fun, made my mistakes, done it all, now I need to put it to one side, not be selfish and bring my kids up responsibly. I want to give them my all, including a fresh, clear head and my health.
Illustration: Assa Ariyoshi
Jade
I have taken drugs. I needed to feel like I was able to still be myself and have fun. It was hard work afterwards, handling a child while a bit high or on a comedown, but overall I think I was able to still engage and not shut myself off from my old life just because I’m now a mum. Saying this, I think I may have tried a bit too hard and that in retrospect I should’ve taken things a bit easier. I’m now onto my second child and maybe maturity or a bit more distance from that lifestyle means I can’t see myself partaking in the same way. I’m not going to say I never will, but my priority is now my kids as well as my own health and wellbeing and I don’t feel the desire to get involved in drugs as much. Saying this, I do like a small smoke of weed, which I think can be done in a safe way occasionally, while still being an effective, engaged person and parent.
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Poppy
It’s like therapy for me to drink wine and have a few lines when my child is away overnight. My husband and I open up and thrash out our issues. And we listen to music and talk about art!
Jem
My days of uppers like coke well and truly ended the second I got pregnant, and continued after the birth of my child as there's no way I could handle the comedowns. But weed takes the edge off life and helps me get into a guiltless sleep, un-self-punished for being such a shit mum; Xanax helps when the weed doesn't.
Suzanne
I haven’t done drugs since becoming a mum but I am planning to in the near future. I feel they are part of a life I enjoy on an occasional let-loose basis, and I didn't become a parent to lose that part of me. We parent liberally and are open-minded about these things and realise it is part of the social scene.
Charlie
I went on my hen do in Ibiza when my little girl was five months. I was still breastfeeding so would get in from a day rave and pump and dump the toxins; I then abstained from feeding for a week with the view that it was enough time to get the MDMA from my system. I viewed this as a distinct opportunity to be me and felt no guilt. I'm sure I was judged but when other mums confided in me, there was a consensus that sometimes you need to have a blowout and be reckless to deal with the weight of raising another human being.
If you are struggling with substance abuse, please visit FRANK or call 0300 123 6600 for friendly, confidential advice. Lines are open 24 hours a day.
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