The World Drug Report released by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime reported that Columbia is the largest producer of cocaine in the world.
Certainly, South American countries are the biggest sources of cocaine. In the laboratories in these countries, where cocaine is extracted from the leaves of the coca plant, the product that is produced is estimated to be between 90-100 percent pure cocaine. When the drug is moved to the United States, it is often cut and diluted a number of times before it actually ends up in the hands of the user. Estimates of the purity of the cocaine that is typically bought on the street range from 20 percent to 65 percent pure; of course, its purity depends on the distributor and the number of people who have handled it before it is sold for use.
Cocaine is listed by the US Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule II drug, indicating that it does have medicinal purposes, but it is also highly prone to abuse and the development of addiction. Musician Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones, in his book Life, discusses his familiarity with pharmaceutical cocaine. He claims that this form of cocaine is so pure that it does not produce the typical “crash” that occurs when one comes down from using cocaine. The DEA does carefully monitor the production and use of pharmaceutical cocaine, which is still used in some circles as a topical anesthesia and to constrict blood vessels for certain types of surgery. It is assumed that pharmaceutical cocaine is significantly purer than the cocaine sold on the street or even the cocaine that initially is smuggled into the United States.
Crack cocaine is a type of cocaine with a much shorter but more intense effect. Individuals producing crack dissolve cocaine in a solution of water and baking soda or ammonia. These ingredients are cooked until they turn into a solid substance. The substance is dried and broken into pieces, and then smoked by users. Smoking drugs results in their effects being experienced more intensely and much quickly than snorting or taking drugs orally. The DEA estimates that crack cocaine may be between 75 percent and 90 percent pure as a result of this process.
How Additives and Fillers Impact the Body
Some of the additives that are found in cocaine are relatively harmless, and others can be seriously harmful. The most dangerous additives found in cocaine include:
- Levamisole: Levamisole is a drug used to rid cattle of parasitic worms, and at one time, it was even considered for this use in humans; however, there were too many potential health complications. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that in 2009 this drug was found in up to 70 percent of cocaine samples. It has potential to produce a condition known as agranulocytosis, a condition that weakens the immune system and leads to the potential to develop infections from even small cuts. These infections can result in potentially fatal conditions.
- Lidocaine, benzocaine, and procaine: These drugs are all anesthetics. Because cocaine has an action of producing anesthesia, or numbing, some cocaine dealers dilute their cocaine with anesthetics to mimic some of the drug’s actions. When cocaine is diluted with these anesthetics, the combination of the stimulating effect of cocaine and the anesthesia can produce a number of potential detrimental effects, including respiratory issues, cardiovascular issues, and brain damage. In addition, the combination of the stimulant properties of cocaine that increase a person’s levels of activity along with increased anesthesia from these drugs can lead to the potential for harm due to accidents.
- Amphetamine and methamphetamine: These drugs obviously mimic the stimulant action of cocaine, and cutting cocaine with these drugs is particularly dangerous. The potential for the development of seizures, heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular issues is increased when cocaine is cut with these drugs. In addition, the potential for overdose is also significantly increased. Long-term risks include the increased potential for the development of neurological condition such as Parkinson’s disease.
- Boric acid: This substance is used as an antiseptic, flame retardant, and insecticide. Chronic use can result in kidney damage, and in large quantities, it can be lethal.
- Mannitol: This drug is used as a diuretic and laxative. It can be dangerous for individuals who have cardiac issues (of course, these people should not be taking cocaine anyway), kidney issues, or issues with cognitive impairment. There is also the possibility that an individual can develop an allergic reaction to the drug.
Of course, a number of other substances may be used to cut cocaine, and many of these may be dangerous.
The problem with using illicit drugs like cocaine is there are no standards, inspections, and overt sanctions for individuals who cut them with potentially dangerous substances.
How Long Does Cocaine Stay in the System?
The half-life of cocaine is relatively short and may be an hour or less. Cocaine is eliminated from the system very quickly and may only be detectable in the urine for a few days, depending on how much cocaine an individual uses. However, substances that that are formed in the system to metabolize cocaine known as metabolites may be detectable for quite some time after using cocaine – in some cases, up to 10 days or even longer.
Obviously, the more cocaine someone uses, the longer the drug will remain in the system. Other types of analyses, such as hair analysis, may be able to detect levels of cocaine in the system for 90 days or more. Depending on one’s usage, the peak levels of concentration of cocaine in a person’s saliva and sweat may be 5-24 hours.