Thursday, 27 December 2007

Story of a Cocaine User

Probably influenced by the glorification of drugs in the media and classic films like Al Pacino’s Scarface and Matt Dillon’s Drugstore Cowboy, there came a point in my life (when I was about 15 years of age) where my curiosity got the better of me and I decided I wanted to try every drug. (Of course famous films continue to glorify films even nowadays with the likes of Cocaine Cowboys and American Gangster hitting the big screen and theatre.

I achieved this ambition by about 21, starting with cannabis and LSD - very cheap in the 1990s. When I was old enough to shuffle past doormen I progressed onto ‘party-drugs’ like amphetamine (speed), and MDMA/MDA (ecstacy). Ecstacy was my favourite. I dabbled with heroin and ketamine before settling on the ubiquitous white powder: cocaine.
My personal experience of cocaine use is a story about overcoming the addictive pull of cocaine. I wouldn’t say I was a ‘hard’ user by any stretch of the imagination. I was probably using everyday or every other day at my peak; sometimes using the toilet cubicles at work to have a morning snort. I cringe at thinking of this nowadays as it seems I had the life of pond-scum. Despite having some warped perception that I was somehow part of the elite and better than everybody else I was actually quite low. The more I did the more I felt low. In the end it led to me feeling as though I had lost my identity; like I’d forgotten who I was.

Cocaine Blues

I remember that after heavy weekends using cocaine how it made life much harder and cocaine blues. I mean, life is hard enough without class ‘A’ drugs isn’t it?? Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday seemed particularly challenging. Monday evenings or Tuesday evenings I usually ended up on the phone to a friend, who didn’t know I used cocaine, moaning about how bad my life was. If only someone had said “listen mate, life’s much easier and much better if you don’t use drugs at the weekends - or mid-week” - but they didn’t and I had to find this out for myself.

Lack of sleep is definitely a torment. After extreme weekend sessions on the ‘Columbian export’ you could often be too wired to sleep. (There’s probably so much rubbish added before the end-user gets the coke that it could be anything in there keeping you awake really). Then there’s the insomnia but with a blocked up knows due to the copious amounts of crap recently shoved up it.

My observations, here in the United Kingdom, are that there are users of cocaine everywhere. The most proliferate users are in the 20s-30s age range. I’ve found that despite moving to several different cities around England I still end up making friends with other users and re-igniting the party lifestyle. Cocaine users come from all parts of society I’ve partied with lawyers and dentists but also there are hundreds of thousands of kids/people doing it from less affluent parts of society. There’s a small town I know where all the young men wear trainers and baseball caps in the 2 bars in the town. These men mostly finished their schooling at 16. The majority of these are cocaine users on a daily basis.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Making Cocaine

The majority of narcotics labs are located in remote southern and central regions of Columbia, away from the coca plantations. Three-quarters of the world's annual yield of cocaine was produced there, both from cocaine base imported from Peru (primarily the Huallaga Valley) and Bolivia, and from locally grown coca. This, combined with crop reductions in Bolivia and Peru, made Colombia the nation with the largest area of coca under cultivation after the mid-1990s.

cocaine pictures

(Photo courtesy DeSoto County Sheriff's Office, Arcadia, Florida)

Making Cocaine involves a three-step process:
1) Leaf to Paste,
2) Paste to Base,
3) Base to cocaine hydrochloride (HCL), or 99 percent pure cocaine

Unprocessed cocaine, such as coca leaves, are occasionally purchased and sold, but this is exceedingly rare as it is much easier and more profitable to conceal and smuggle it in powdered form. Attempts to eradicate coca fields through the use of defoliants have devastated part of the farming economy in some coca growing regions of Colombia, and strains appear to have been developed that are more resistant or immune to their use. The traditional use of the raw leaf to prevent altitude sickness (and it does work) is another reason why it is so difficult to eradicate cocaine production in Peru and Bolivia.

Organized criminal gangs operating on a large scale dominate the cocaine trade. Cocaine traffickers from Colombia, and recently Mexico, have also established a labyrinth of smuggling routes throughout the Caribbean, the Bahama Island chain, and South Florida. Or use airdrops of 500–700 kg in the Bahama Islands or off the coast of Puerto Rico, mid-ocean boat-to-boat transfers of 500–2,000 kg, and the commercial shipment of tonnes of cocaine through the port of Miami. These vessels are typically 150–250-foot (50–80 m) coastal freighters that carry an average cocaine load of approximately 2000kg. Traffickers from Mexico or the Dominican Republic are often hired to transport the drug. Cocaine is also carried in small, concealed, kilogram quantities across the border by couriers known as “mules” (or “mulas”). The drugs are strapped to the waist or legs or hidden in bags, or hidden in the body.

Cutting cocaine with procaine

Dealers are often eager to cut their with merchandise to increase their profit magins. At the street level, anything remotely similar to the texture of cocaine is used such as sugars, corn starch or flour. Higher up the chain other chemicals from the cocaine family are used. Cutting cocaine with procaine is a popular choice.

The extent to which the producers and smugglers are intent on distributing their cocaine product explains the huge commitment of the U.S. government to combat this illicit trade: $14 billion to the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces since 2001.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Methods of taking cocaine

Snorting cocaine is the most common method of taking cocaine powder. This is ususally done by ‘racking’ it up into "bumps", "lines" or "rails" of very fine particles. A sharp object such as a razor blade or Stanley knife blade is often used for cutting the cocaine as fine as possible. The finer the coke is, the more coke can be obtained from the bag. After the lines are set out a funnel is used to sniff the line up the nose. Once again, money notes are often used for this purpose. In comparative terms, this probably the lowest risk method of taking cocaine, yet there are considerable risks associated with it still. A study by Bonkovsky and Mehta published in Am Acad Dermatol (2001 Feb;44(2):159-82) reported that, just like shared needles, the sharing of straws used to "snort" cocaine can spread blood diseases such as Hepatitis C. Cocaine can be snorted, smoked, or injected. Each of these methods of administration pose great risks to the user.

Evidence suggests that users who smoke or inject cocaine may be at even greater risk of causing harm to themselves than those who snort the substance. For example, cocaine smokers also suffer from acute respiratory problems including coughing, shortness of breath, and severe chest pains with lung trauma and bleeding.

When people smoke the kind of 'coke' that was prepared for snorting, the toxic effect they feel is caused not by the cocaine, but by a poisonous compound that forms, called cocamine. This is mostly done with the small amounts of cocaine remaining on a surface after snorting session.

Crack cocaine

A less sophisticated but common method is to use a discarded soda can and puncture several small holes on the side of the can near its bottom. " As the "rock" is heated, it melts and heats into vapor, which the user inhales as smoke.

A small piece (approximately one inch) of clean heavy copper or occasionally stainless steel scouring pad—often called a "brillo" or "chore", from the scouring pads of the same name—is placed into one end of the tube and carefully packed down to approximately three-quarters of an inch. Upon injection, cocaine reaches the brain in a matter of seconds, and the exhilarating rush that follows can be so intense that it induces some users to vomit uncontrollably which causes bleeding of the esophagus.

Cocaine effects

There are many different effects from using crack and cocaine. Some are minor effects which will affect every user. Other more serious cocaine effects or reactions may be avoided by some but experienced by others. A cocaine user plays a game of 'Russian Roulette' when they take drugs; some cocaine effects can be severe:

Cocaine has been responsible for numerous deaths, particularly in and around Los Angeles, including celebrities such as John Belushi, Chris Farley (in Chicago), River Phoenix and Layne Staley (in Seattle).

It is associated with a lifetime risk of heart attack that is seven times that of non-users. In addition to irritability, mood disturbances, restlessness, paranoia, and auditory hallucinations, crack can cause several dangerous physical conditions. This can be experienced acutely as cocaine blues or feelings of depression, as a "crash" after the initial high.

Using charlie can also cause a wide array of kidney diseases and renal failure. Typically, only a third of an oral dose is absorbed, although absorption has been shown to reach 60% in controlled settings.

Its effects can last from 20 minutes to several hours, depending upon the dosage of cocaine taken, purity, and method of administration. The diagnostic criteria for cocaine withdrawal is characterized by a dysphonic mood, fatigue, unpleasant dreams, insomnia or hyper-somnia. Physiological and psychotropic effects from nasally insufflated cocaine are sustained for approximately 40 - 60 minutes after the peak effects are attained.

The experience of insatiable hunger, aches, insomnia/oversleeping, lethargy, and persistent runny nose are often described as very unpleasant. The risk[ of becoming cocaine-dependent within 2 years of first use (recent-onset) is 5-6%; after 10 years, it's 15-16%. Cocaine's effects appear almost immediately after a single dose, and disappear within a few minutes or hours. Taken in small amounts (up to 100 mg), cocaine usually makes the user feel euphoric, energetic, talkative, and mentally alert, especially to the sensations of sight, sound, and touch. It can also temporarily decrease the need for food and sleep. Some users find that the drug helps them to perform simple physical and intellectual tasks more quickly, while others can experience the opposite effect. It is most often used recreationally for this effect. A common but untrue belief is that the smoking of cocaine chemically breaks down tooth enamel and causes tooth decay.

Cocaine addiction is physical and psychological dependency on the regular use of cocaine.

How long does cocaine stay in your system?

Cocaine can stay in your system for up to 72 hours dependent upon a number of factors:

  • such as the strength and quantity you consume;
  • how often you use and what other drugs you use;
  • your tolerance; and,
  • your sex,
  • age,
  • health, and,
  • metabolism.