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Cyberpunk 2020 obviously discourages player characters from voluntarily using drugs. The rulebook includes hints such as:

Remember: Drugs are dangerous. Mess with them and you'll probably kill your character. Or at least mess him up beyond repair. The choice is yours. Just like real life.

However, the mechanics of Addiction rolls do not seem clear to me. The entry for "Black Lace" contains the following offhand comment:

If you fail your addiction save (1D10 roll higher than Body Type)

That seems to imply that players must periodically roll 1d10 after using drugs, and that any roll higher than a character's Body Type indicates that the character is now addicted. If the GM allows a player character to have a 10 Body Type score, that player character should never fail any Addiction save! (And presumably the GM would be obligated to find some poison that reduces Body Type temporarily, then rule that the player became addicted due to the temporary weakness of his body.)

It would seem excessive to roll an Addiction Save after each use.

Example 1:

Smash

Type: Euphoric

Strength: + 1

Difficulty: 2

Cost: 100 per 6 pk

Duration: 1 D6+ 1 minutes

Smash is 2020's answer to alcohol-it's yellow, foamy, and comes in cans. It makes you loose, happy and ready to party. The downside is that when it wears off, its psychological addiction component makes you suicidal. If you fail your addiction Save, you sink into total catatonia; a feebly mumbling ball of pain-a ripe target for some Booster looking for spare change.

[p.123]

Clearly, alcohol addiction can raise your risk for suicidal depression in real life, but the effects of real-world alcohol in reducing reflexes certainly last longer than 1 to 6 minutes. (I might believe that alcohol only produces euphoria for 1 to 5 minutes in many real-world cases.) I interpret the rules to mean that choombas in Cyberpunk 2020 typically drink a can of Smash in 1 to 5 minutes and open another can as soon as the euphoria has worn off. Unlike alcohol, apparently drinking Smash does not increase one's risk of crashing one's motor vehicle.

However, a recent Cyberpunk Red podcast showed Mike Pondsmith himself encouraging his player characters to drink Smash before an adventure, so Pondsmith probably doesn't intend Smash to be addictive for most people. Apparently the GM is supposed to make a personal judgement call regarding when a player character has been drinking too much Smash, and then the GM forces the player to roll a saving throw against addiction. I can't find the specific rules that explain how to do this. However, once a character has become addicted, I believe Smash addicts have to deal with the "psychological addiction" rules:

Psychological Addiction (-8pts): The character is psychologically addicted, and must roll lower than his CL each hour following the last dose of the drug. On a failed roll, he suffers extreme anxiety, fear and depression; he become driven to find more of the drug and can do nothing else. Kicking the addiction is a VERY DIFFICULT Endurance check, and may take as long as the Referee decides is sufficient.

[p.124]

That would be impossibly harsh if every Smash drinker had to roll to resist addiction after every single usage of Smash. Apparently the GM is meant to make up his own rulings regarding when characters must roll for Addiction saves. Perhaps the frequency is supposed to be higher for Black Lace than for Smash.

However, the usefulness of "Black Lace" might make it very tempting to players. Thus GMs might want players to roll an Addiction Save after each and every use.

Black Lace

Type: Pain Negation

Strength: +3

Duration: 1 D6+ 1 hours

A high powered version of 'Dorph which imparts euphoria, adrenal rush, and invulnerability to pain. Your CL is raised by 2, and you are resistant to stun or shock effects. Lace is deadly. Lace users become fearless, cold-blooded killing machines-exactly what its military designers were looking for. If you fail your addiction save (1D10 roll higher than Body Type) roll an additional 1 D6 and subtract the result from your EMP stat. Treat the result as if suffering from cyberpsychosis. If you go over the line, too bad. Roll up another character.

Are there any "rules as written" that specify the frequency of addiction checks, or are GMs supposed to improvise?

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The book isn't well organized, and DMs often ignore the rules, but yes, the rules as written and intended are harsh.

As you have noted, the penalties are very harsh. This was written in the 'Drugs are bad, mkay?' 80s phase when the FBI pushed that pretty hard and a lot of people rolled over, and so it makes sense that taking them is likely to cripple your character, which is weird for products that might be sold in a store next to alcohol.

But, you have to look around through the books to get the rules, and it's kind of hard to read it, and many GMs see the penalties as overly harsh and so ignore them.

If you don't ignore them though the rules as written are clear. After you stop taking the drugs, you roll 'lower than his CL each hour following the last dose of the drug' which will very clearly fuck you over.

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