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November 6, 2010 10:32 PM   Subscribe

Cocaine - how it's made, how it moves, and who might be cutting it with a deadly cattle-deworming drug, a follow up to the mystery of the tainted cocaine.
posted by Artw (41 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
turkey is good. ive been eating so much turkey. Turkey at all three meals for the last three days . Yummy turkey . hmmmm...???

Adventures with ritalin and orajel.
posted by clavdivs at 10:42 PM on November 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


cocaine's the first drug that ever killed a friend of mine, and it happened way early in the game (1979) when, according to all the underground press hype I had access to, it was a harmless good-time drug recommended for all who considered themselves cool. Needless to say, I've been steering clear ever since.
posted by philip-random at 10:43 PM on November 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


I always look at things like this and wonder how the hell someone decides to cut cocaine with deworming agents. Then I remember last week when a dude came up to my car while I was in a fast food drive through and offered me LSD. I looked down and saw the campden tablets I had just purchased for brewing and thought about how I could sell the $1.50 worth of tablets for $50 to the guy if I said they were extacy. I decided I was not that big of an A hole. and the guy was already tripping on acid and taking a bunch of desanitizers might just kill him.
posted by Felex at 10:49 PM on November 6, 2010


Geez, I knew that Meany kid was headed for trouble, but I guess Encyclopedia Brown had moved onto the harder stuff, too.
posted by adipocere at 10:52 PM on November 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


follow up perhaps but not news
posted by clavdivs at 10:57 PM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Very interesting article, thanks Artw!
posted by JHarris at 11:36 PM on November 6, 2010


I always am amazed that drugs get cut with such dangerous and odd chemicals. The article discusses theories, but from a business perspective, it seems mind-staggeringly idiotic to add a poison that attracts public attention and, most importantly, hurts paying customers who are otherwise a captive audience, anyway. Legalization can't come soon enough.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:53 PM on November 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


(thanks for posting ArtW; i'd wanted to, but i'm too close to the source.0

this is pretty fascinating and sadly frightening. i've been asking my 'acquaintances' to lay off the powders for a while now as reports of the adverse affects of the stuff making the rounds here in seattle have been trickling in. i'm glad kiley has been putting this together and that it's getting so much publicity.

also, he weaves a great tale...
posted by artof.mulata at 11:54 PM on November 6, 2010


People cut drugs with horrible things because of the way those things blend invisibly with the drug. There are very few white powders that looks like crystallized cocaine and behave like crystallized cocaine when freebased or cooked into rock.

...according to all the underground press hype I had access to, it was a harmless good-time drug recommended for all who considered themselves cool. Needless to say, I've been steering clear ever since.

When it's unadulterated, cocaine is one of the most harmless party drugs around. As a purified stimulant it's quick acting (overdose while waiting for the drug to work is unlikely), quickly broken down, not terribly addicting, and has few side effects in the short term. Chronic use has problems, but it's nothing relative to other drugs like alcohol, tobacco and smack.

Here's a mental exercise in comparative toxicity:

1) Perform an alkaloid extraction on a pound of coffee beans
2) Cut the pure caffeine into a one-inch line
3) Take a toot.

You'll be dead before your goofy drug buddies can dial 911. But no one would ever say of coffee what's common wisdom about coca.

I'm sorry about your friend. Like as not he had no idea what was in that stuff (cocaine was being cut with bathroom cleansers as early as the 50s) and you never found out.
posted by clarknova at 12:21 AM on November 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


When it's unadulterated, cocaine is one of the most harmless party drugs around.

but when is cocaine ever unadulterated (outside of Colombia, Peru etc)? For what it's worth, my friend's physical death was preceded by his emotional death (which yes, had a lot to do with having a preacher for a dad, but the cocaine, often very pure, didn't help matters at all between his ears).
posted by philip-random at 1:21 AM on November 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Interesting article. Levamisole tainted cocaine is getting about much further and wider than the continental US. I was involved i a drug prosecution recently that revolved around cocaine importation from Tanzania to Melbourne, Australia. And yes, the cocaine was cut with Levamisole. I can't even begin to fathom how that works - how a drug gets from Colombia to f'ing Tanzania and then to Australia.
posted by tim_in_oz at 1:18 AM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


and cocaine causes us to repeat ourselves
posted by philip-random at 1:28 AM on November 7, 2010


and to moralize.
posted by clavdivs at 2:03 AM on November 7, 2010


So a good public health measure would be to develop and sell (give away from clinics? sell by mail order? leave lying around in crack houses?) good, safe chemicals that can be used to cut drugs without toxic side effects. They need to be indistinguishable (other than in effect) from the real active drug, so dealers will use them.

Unintended consequences: fewer drug deaths, so more drug users, so more crime. Possibly more drug users if it's perceived as safer. Lack of uptake because law enforcement uses the cutting chemical supply to find out who's cutting drugs, locks them up, and no-one ever takes your safe version again because you can't guarantee anonymity. Reduced costs for drug dealers mean more drug dealers.

Worth looking at, though. The main problem is political, I think.
posted by alasdair at 3:06 AM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


As fascinating book on this whole thing is The Candy Machine by Tom Feiling I disagree with the reviewer in that link however here's another.
posted by The Lady is a designer at 4:13 AM on November 7, 2010


There is no tainted cocaine, really. As a matter of fact, it's all tainted.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 6:11 AM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


With all the Chaos in mexico, I wonder if the tainting is being done by rival gangs to discredit the competition.
posted by delmoi at 6:35 AM on November 7, 2010


You know, it was the widespread tainting of Mexican marijuana (by paraquat) that led to the development of a domestic cannabis industry. It wouldn't surprise me at all if some enterprising young narcos started growing coca in some national forest land out west where the valley climates mimicked those of the Andes foothills.
posted by norm at 7:13 AM on November 7, 2010


Interesting. Unfortunately, there's a large hole in the author's argument that Asian gang-associated cocaine imported into Vancouver is somehow better than Mexican narco-associated cocaine traded up the west coast. We've not avoided levamisole-related agranulocytosis cases.
posted by docgonzo at 7:49 AM on November 7, 2010


I find it amusing that Stephen Maturin (in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series) starts chewing coca leaves in an effort to rid himself of the habit of taking nightly doses of laudanum:

‘But the great wealth of every day is of course botanical, and that reminds me of the cuca or coca leaves that a Peruvian traveller gave me; when they are chewed with a little lime they sharpen the mind to a wonderful degree, they induce a sense of well-being and they abolish both hunger and fatigue. I have laid in a considerable stock, because I think it will help me to throw off a somewhat troublesome habit: you may have noticed that for insomnia and a variety of other ills I take a tincture of laudanum; and this does tend to become a little too usual. I do not think there is any question of abuse, still less of addiction, yet it creates a certain need, not unlike that for tobacco; I should be glad to be set free from it, and I am confident that these valuable leaves will prove efficacious. Their powers really do surprise me, and I shall enclose a few with my letter, so that you may try them. During this period of extremely wearing toil and anxiety I have proposed them to Jack, but he said that if they did away with sleep and hunger they were not for him – in this crisis he needed his sleep and he must have his meals – in short, he would not take physic til the ship was afloat, no, not for a king's ransom.' (from)
posted by KokuRyu at 8:22 AM on November 7, 2010


If you read down in the article, there is some speculation that levamisole is a ploy to increase Columbian profits since the Mexicans took over the importation into the US. The Columbians' customers are mostly the Mexicans who now control most of the final leg.

However, sounding like it makes sense and actually being the case don't necessarily connect with each other.
posted by warbaby at 8:33 AM on November 7, 2010


Also, this caught my attention:

"Most of the cocaine in the U.S. comes from Colombia (overland via Mexican gangs or on ships and narco-submarines sneaking up the Pacific coast), and most of the cocaine in Europe comes from Peru and Bolivia, via Brazil."

This NYT article has a lot to say about narcosubs (properly semi-submersibles, but now they have captured the first true submarine.)
posted by warbaby at 8:42 AM on November 7, 2010


When it's unadulterated, cocaine is one of the most harmless party drugs around.

Except for the bit where you get so addicted that you start pawning your possessions, stealing from friends and strangers, and selling your body. Because that's totally harmless.

Does that apply to all party drugs when unadulterated?*

Weed: no
LSD: no
Meth: yes
Ecstasy: no
Sketchy hallucinogenic research chemicals: maybe?
Ketamine: no
Cocaine: yes

Coke also has the effect of making people using it seem like total assholes to people who are not using it.

*For the purposes of this list, I am not classifying heroin, shrooms, or alcohol as party drugs. Also: I am not trying to suggest that ketamine, ecstasy, acid, sketchy hallucinogens don't have their own dangers, but none of them are as totally life-fucking as coke and meth are when used as directed.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:50 AM on November 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also: is it possible that levamisole has some sort of shielding effect from drug-sniffing dogs or airport cocaine-detection kits?
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:52 AM on November 7, 2010


Official Soundtrack for this thread
posted by CynicalKnight at 9:13 AM on November 7, 2010


I find it amusing that Stephen Maturin (in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series) starts chewing coca leaves in an effort to rid himself of the habit of taking nightly doses of laudanum:


Freud wrote a paper suggesting cocaine as a treatment for opiate addiction.
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:14 AM on November 7, 2010


Except for the bit where you get so addicted that you start pawning your possessions, stealing from friends and strangers, and selling your body

Two points: The harms above are largely the result of prohibition and the exorbitant markup possible in the non-regulated market for illicit drugs. Also, the harms above are only suffered by a small subset of all individuals who ever use cocaine.

These conclusions are not my own but the findings of a blue-ribbon international panel on cocaine assembled by the World Health Organization in the mid-1990s. Its report, which concluded that drug law enforcement was futile and contributes to health-related harms, was (surprise!) suppressed by the US and other prohibitionist states. (See Ben Goldacre's column here; the report, leaked last year, is here.)
posted by docgonzo at 9:28 AM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, the harms above are only suffered by a small subset of all individuals who ever use cocaine. -docgonzo

That's not quite correct. Though your second link doesn't work, from your first link:
"Cocaine-related problems are widely perceived to be more common and more severe for intensive, high-dosage users and very rare and much less severe for occasional, low-dosage users."

Sounds like alcohol addition, which also happens with overuse and also overwhelms and ruins lives. But I've never heard of alcohol addition from one drink, whereas, although rare, can happen with cocaine. That makes it a particularly nasty drug. (It also makes it highly profitable for certain types of people, who are all too willing to give it out for free for newbees).
posted by eye of newt at 9:54 AM on November 7, 2010


Sorry, this is the link.

And from my quick scan of that paper you linked to, eye of newt, I don't see how it supports your contention that individuals can become dependent after one exposure to cocaine. Rather, the paper looks at a representative household survey of Americans and found that a bit under 1% had first used cocaine within the past 24 months. Among those, 5-6% proceeded to dependency within a few months to 24 months. Specifically,

However, the NCS estimate of 5–6% is a predicted risk of observing cocaine dependence onset within 1 person-year after start of cocaine use, and this study's NHSDA estimate is a predicted probability for recent-onset cocaine users, some of whom started to use cocaine as many as 23 months prior to assessment, and some of whom had used cocaine only for a few months.

The "dealers hand it out for free, and you can get hooked after just one hit" sounds more Nancy Reagan than evidence-based medicine, to me.
posted by docgonzo at 10:05 AM on November 7, 2010


And from my quick scan of that paper you linked to, eye of newt, I don't see how it supports your contention that individuals can become dependent after one exposure to cocaine.

Interesting "fact" relayed to me by a friend who was in Narcotics Anonymous at the time (for heroin addiction). For every person who does heroin once (hardly at high percentage of the population), 15 percent will go on to become junkies. So the question suddenly becomes not "what is it about this particular drug that is so horribly addictive, life-destroying etc?" (it isn't for the large majority of those who dabble with it), but "what is it about the psyche, the emotional state, the 'soul' of the 15 percent (of an originally small percent in the first place) who do become junkies, that sets them apart?" What damage is already there? What frailty? What pain?

This to me is the central concern that needs to be addressed about any addiction.
posted by philip-random at 10:28 AM on November 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


The "dealers hand it out for free, and you can get hooked after just one hit" sounds more Nancy Reagan than evidence-based medicine, to me.

I got that 'dealers hand it out for free' from a friend of mine, who got tipped with cocaine from a regular customer, who weeks later demanded payment for it. And it ruined my friend's life--a very outgoing, creative person who could add a lot to this world. Take it as an anecdote, but don't say it doesn't happen.
posted by eye of newt at 10:35 AM on November 7, 2010


When it's unadulterated, cocaine is one of the most harmless party drugs around.

Well no, not really. As one of the two articles linked from the original post says:

Nobody doubts that cocaine is destructive. "It's toxic to heart-muscle cells," Dr. Coffin says. "Even in its purest form, it's among the worst recreational drugs for the cardiovascular system."
posted by w0mbat at 10:44 AM on November 7, 2010


Most of the 'evidence' in the WHO study comes from:
Key Informant Study reports from drug users and others with an extensive knowledge of
cocaine use from 19 sites/cities;


In other words, it champions evidence based studies, then procedes to present conclusions based on anecdotal evidence.
posted by eye of newt at 10:52 AM on November 7, 2010


The "dealers hand it out for free, and you can get hooked after just one hit" sounds more Nancy Reagan than evidence-based medicine, to me.


I've known a few crackheads, and all of them first got it for free. Usually from a friend who wanted a buddy with the same habit (and who were also dealers or worked for dealers). It was free until they decided to buy it for themselves, and by then they were hooked (and their friend then had a buddy to buy when he didn't have the cash). One of them told me that he was pretty much hooked by the second time he smoked it. I have also met a ton of people who never really took to the stuff, and they just smoked the free stuff a few times and walked away. For those who for some reason get hooked, though, it's a fast process.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:40 AM on November 7, 2010


Pretty much everyone's first experience with pretty much every new drug involves "getting it for free". Mostly in the form of having it shared with them by a friend. This is not the same thing as those scary PSAs we had in public school.
posted by cmyr at 2:56 PM on November 7, 2010


I can't even begin to fathom how that works - how a drug gets from Colombia to f'ing Tanzania and then to Australia.

Apparently South American cartels are using Africa as a transit point for smuggling to other places (notably Europe), largely due to the lax/bribeable security there. (This has had the effect of increasing corruption in the countries in question, and making a few people very wealthy; there are cities in Africa with new suburbs full of opulent mansions, owned by the cartels' local point men.) It's not unlikely that it'd be easier for cocaine shipments to Australia to go eastward, through Africa, than over the Pacific. (I imagine that flights from South America would attract more scrutiny than those from Africa.)

Of course, most if not all flights eastward to Australia transit through countries where drug trafficking is a capital crime, though it could be argued that the severe penalties highlight the relatively low likelihood of getting caught.
posted by acb at 5:27 PM on November 7, 2010


Excellent story!!

The reason people claim cocaine is nonaddictive is because they have an old definition of addiction that relies on physical dependence and tolerance. This idea involves the misconception that physical dependence is "real" addiction and psychological dependence is not.

The truth is, however, and you'll find this out from any addict you ever talk to, basically, physical dependence isn't the problem. It's staying quit, ie, dealing with craving. Wrote about this in context of marijuana here.

Yes, unlike heroin, cocaine doesn't make you puke and shake when you try to quit— but boy does it cause craving. Crack is a big part of why that old definition was dropped.

Also, covered how the levamisole/ agranulocytosis/ coke connection was discovered here.
posted by Maias at 5:34 PM on November 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


On the plus side, Charlie Sheen is finally dewormed.
posted by w0mbat at 9:00 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


acb wrote: there are cities in Africa with new suburbs full of opulent mansions, owned by the cartels' local point men.

This matches up pretty accurately with the courier's description of the set-up. He also told me that the 'local point men' were clearly so well connected with local government officials that they were able to get authentic passports issues in false names at a moment's notice. The rest of the guy's story is pretty incredible, but is probably beyond the bounds of what I can post here.
posted by tim_in_oz at 2:38 AM on November 10, 2010


Part 3, how to use the test kit that DanceSafe and the Stranger are promoting to test your cocaine and crack, has been posted.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:28 AM on November 16, 2010


I got to see the test kit in action last week, and it's pretty impressively easy. No one in the audience had a sample of cocaine that they wanted checked, so they ran the test on pure levamisole. They said that of the results returned, over 80% of cocaine samples tested in Seattle were contaminated with levamisole.
posted by gingerbeer at 6:48 PM on November 26, 2010


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