Issue 3: Blow Smoke & Hard Candy

Introducing our drugs issue, with personal essays and confessional writing concerning drugs, recreational and addictive. With writing from Kevin Power, Padraic E Moore, Conor Creighton, Roisin Kiberd, Amo Downey, Grace Dyas, Neil Watkins, Michael Egan, and Maeve Devoy. With artwork by Steve McCarthy.

Roisin Agnew | Editor's Foreword

Some of my happiest moments have been spent on drugs. One often hears that. In her essay “Joy” Zadie Smith talks about the surge of undiluted happiness that drugs bring. How they alone create that sense of release and possibility that is akin to the feeling of love.

Statistics show that drug use is on the rise and that new drugs are being invented at a faster rate than ever. In October 2014 one in three people in the UK reported having made recent use of illegal substances, according to The Observer. A quick inventory of the people you know will likely produce similar results. 

When drugs were made legal in Ireland for 24 hours this year through a constitutional loophole, it didn’t matter much. Their illegality had never really stopped anyone. We’re a late-night city that parties hard. We’re a city where homelessness and drug-addiction are never far from the headlines, especially since the death of homeless man Jonathan Corrie. The mannerisms of our heroin addicts have become more synonymous with Dublin than any of our landmarks. And yet we never talk about drugs.

In this city your choice of drugs is as much a social signifier as accent, education, fashion sense, and musical taste - we regroup and marginalise accordingly.

Writing about drugs presents very obvious problems. People with experiences of  addiction often aren’t able to articulate their stories with poster-worthy, Trainspotting eloquence. Often it falls to ‘others’  more fortunate than them to tell their stories for them. As a middle-class, university-educated person in her 20s, should my recreational drug use be written about alongside stories of addiction? I don’t know. Drugs have been glamourised by fashion, cinema, literature, and music to such an extent that it’s impossible to speak positively of drug use without appearing irresponsible or privileged.


The great junk-propagandist William Burroughs says, “Be a deviant or die of boredom.” Whether you are a strung-out heroin addict or a pill-popping session head, you experience a communion in this statement. It is not about rebellion or counter-culture. Rather, it is about deviating from normality in search of something. It’s about hoping for something larger, your consciousness stretched, your eyes opened suddenly to something new. It’s about friendship and intimacy. It’s a deviance undertaken for the sake of pleasure, an escape from pain. That initial compulsion to get high, stoned, out of it, wrecked, medicated, is something that many people share. It’s what happens after that initial impulse that changes everything and  makes the distinction between recreational and addictive.

It’s hard to represent heroin addiction alongside the use of other drugs. The abuse, violence, lack of prospects, and lack of education that often  precede an individual’s addiction are hard to understand, let alone portray. Pop culture is unrehearsed in its depictions of dependency. Burrough’s odes to junk were of a different era, and his addiction did not develop out of a lack of choice. But according to the participants in RADE, it is important to speak of their experiences in a lighter way, restore normality, humanity, and humour to the hooded featureless figures we’ve become so numb to.

Blow Smoke & Hard Candy - coke, weed, and heroin - is about drugs in Dublin, recreational and addictive.

Nothing is being minimised, we don’t pass judgment, and we don’t condone, but we do want to talk about it.

This issue is dedicated to RADE and the Rialto Community Drug Team who work with people with dependencies.


Steve McCarthy | Issue 3 Illustrator

Steve once did an exhibition centred around a poem that went, “A man of no importance did nothing, on no particular day, at a time I don’t remember,  a man or something, did nothing, and everything he was became something else... For one whole hour he was the full stop at the end of this sentence.”

The next time I saw him he was working on a piece for something called 99% Invisible. I bumped into him a few weeks later wearing a necklace of bones for the Day of the Dead and going to a place called Imaginosity. His first show was called The Man Who Tasted Shapes. Sometimes he seems like a figure seen through a mirage walking a tight-rope between abstraction and hilarity.

At the beginning of each year Steve makes a huge list of resolutions in his passport-sized notebook, which his Japanese stationery shop has just discontinued. It’s the best thing I’ve ever read. But I’m not going to share it with you.

He misuses the word contingency all the time, using it to signify  “a group” instead of “possibility.” He knows it doesn’t mean that, but it’s just become a habit he can’t shake. I like that  ‘a group of friends’ is easily interchangeable with ‘possibilities’ in his mind.

On his smoke breaks he’s worked on Cartoon Saloon’s Song of the Sea, murals for the Dublin Fringe, the Aul Haunts project for Jameson, and children’s book Sally Go Round The Stars. The James Joyce quote on Dun Laoghaire seafront is also his.

Steve has a funny bone that tickles easy and a lumber-sexual beard that mainly seems to attract other hetero men. He normally lives in an ultra-sensitive space capsule of absurdity, which we have grabbed hold of in order to illustrate the delicate subject of drugs. It’s darker than what he normally does and beyond perfect.

He often repeats the phrase “Other people’s love is disgusting.” So I’m going to take his cue on this one and stop talking about him now.