The Dangers of Street Cocaine
The fact that the cocaine you bought from your dealer is not pure should come as no surprise. Street cocaine is cut with a variety of other ingredients to increase the margins of the dealers. Just how impure it is, though, may surprise you. Most street cocaine tends to be about 20% to 30% pure.
What Else Is in Cocaine?
Tales of cocaine adulterated with talc or rat poison are most likely urban myths. The most likely used substances will be powdered milk, flour, sugars, creatine, ground drywall or something else that’s common and easily obtainable. They may also add caffeine, lidocaine or benzocaine to mimic the stimulating and local anesthetic properties of the cocaine.
But this is far from the worst of it. Tests have also revealed additives of other drugs. An increasingly popular adulterant is the drug levamisole, a toxic drug used to kill parasitic worms in humans and livestock. A new report also claims that levamisole causes human tissue to wither and die. It can effect the nose, cheeks, and ears. Another side effect is plummeting white blood cell counts. Why use levamisole when sugar or flour will do? One of the constituents of levamisole has amphetamine-like stimulation properties which has the effect of increasing the amount of dopamine released by the brain. The effects can be cocaine-like.
Cocaine gets its euphoric effect from blocking the dopamine transporter protein which then increases the available amount of dopamine to interact with the dopamine receptors of the brain. Think of the surge that’s created when you bend a garden hose and then let it go. But then, levamisole does more than that: it can increase the effect of cocaine through its release of dopamine. In 2005, levamisole was found in two percent of the cocaine seized by the DEA. In 2011, that number was up to 73%.
What are levamisole’s side effects? How’s this: It suppresses the immune system which in turn can put the chronic user at risk for cancers and other diseases. It has also been known to cause a blood disorder (agranulocytosis) that diminishes the production of certain types of white blood cells. This in turn can allow infections, high fever, swollen glands, painful sores, and wounds that won’t heal. But wait, there’s more: other side effects can include allergic reactions, decreased bone marrow function, and nervous system problems.
Lidocaine is often found in first aid kits used as pain reliever (found in some first aid creams mixed with antibiotics. However, it can have direct and serious consequences to the heart and central nervous system when used in sufficient quantities.
Benzocaine is a topical pain reliever that looks and feels like cocaine. (It’s used in teething medicines like Orajel, first aid ointments, throat sprays, and sunburn remedies—it’s even used in condoms to help prevent premature ejaculation.) It can also be easily purchased on the internet. It can make users think they’re snorting high quality cocaine because of the way it numbs the nose and mouth. It also has cocaine-like effects of its own but much weaker. If the user tries to make crack cocaine out of benzocaine adulterated coke, the fake additive can’t be detected—the perfect deceiver, right?
And More Trash
Other less pharmaceutical cutting agents found in cocaine include boric acid (an ingredient in insecticides and antiseptic products), and dimethylterephthalate (a chemical used in the manufacture of plastic).
Aside from this plethora of cutting agents in cocaine, users often combine their use of the drug with other drugs, particularly alcohol, that can also have dangerous consequences. Many believe that using cocaine with alcohol allows you to drink more, making you feel more sharp and sober. It’s true that alcohol can enhance the effects of cocaine. The reason for this is a chemical called cocaethylene, a substance that is formed in the liver when cocaine and alcohol are consumed together. If you’re a chronic user/imbiber, cocaethylene’s toxicity can build up in the liver over time and have dangerous consequences. To wit: It has been blamed for heart attacks in those under-40 years old.
According the US Drug Abuse Warning System, this could be the reason why the number of cocaine-related deaths in the U.S. is increasing.
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