Cocaine always ends in tears. Honestly do you know anyone who has kept up a long-term coke habit without somehow fucking up their life? I don’t think there is anyone out there who can say “you know what; doing coke was one of the best things that ever happened to me. My life is better because of cocaine”. It is possible to find people who can honestly say this about cannabis, MDMA, DMT and psilocybin but not cocaine. Cocaine destroys people, friendships and even countries... and I’m sure anyone who has a witnessed a group of supposed friends arguing over whose line is bigger can testify that cocaine can turn you into an absolute cunt.
It is by far one of the most destructive substances out there and it brings violence with it wherever it goes. It is no coincidence that the height of the Gangland violence that plagued Dublin occurred during our boom years, as it was fuelled by our subsequent appetite for “the rich man’s drug”. The money involved in cocaine is immense. South American Cartels have their own private armies and even use feckin submarines to smuggle the drug across the ocean. There are isolated fishing villages in Central America whose economy depends on the “cocaine lottery”. This is when fishermen stumble upon bales of the drug that have been thrown overboard by traffickers who have been chased by the authorities. Today, poor West African nations like Guinea Bissau have essentially been “bought” and had their leaders killed or corrupted by the cartels seeking to gain new access routes into Europe. Newer variants of the drug like “crack” and “paco” have plagued inner city neighbourhoods due to their addictive potential and the violence associated with their sale and the actions of those under their influence.
If people understood how the drug is produced and adulterated, the effects on the user, as well as the impact buying a gram on the weekend can have on other communities then maybe they would reconsider racking up lines on a toilet seat in some nightclub.
What is it?
Cocaine is a stimulant that usually comes in the form of a white powder or “rocks”, it can be smoked and injected but the preferred route is through the nasal cavity by insufalation (snorting). Cocaine hydrochloride is derived from the coca plant which grows in the Andean region of South America. It is really only produced in significant quantities in Colombia, Bolivia and Peru. Coca has been used for thousands of years by the indigenous people of the Andean region as a medicine to help combat altitude sickness as well as a source of food. This region of South America is a harsh environment and coca provides protein, fibre, essential minerals like calcium, phosphate and potassium as well as vitamins C, B1, B2 and E. The indigenous people refer to it as “coca mama” and they will tell you that “coca no es druga, coca es comida” (coca is not a drug, coca is food). They tell of how “coca mama” provides for them but their legends state that the white man would not know how to use the coca mama and he would turn it into a force for evil.
How is it made?
Probably the best way to get somebody to stop eating sausages, McDonald’s, KFC or gummy bears is probably to show them the production process that gets it from the farm to their mouth. This is true also of cocaine. It starts out fine as a plant (coca leaf) that is picked by hand; providing a livelihood for countless peasent farmers in Latin America. The process then becomes more noxious.
- The leaves are dried, chopped and stamped on while soaking in a bath of ammonia, lime and kerosene, petrol or diesel.
- This liquid is then drained off with more ammonia, petrol and some sulphuric acid thrown into the mix.
- It is then filtered and the residue is collected and more ammonia is mixed to form cocaine paste.
- Hydrochloric acid and potassium permanganate then help to turn the paste into base.
- Acetone or alcohol and more hydrochloric acid then helps turn it into the final product which undergoes adulteration or “cutting” with a wide range of other substances as it passes down through each criminal in the chain until it eventually finds its way up your nasal cavity.
These illegal laboratories are often hidden in the jungle and are regularly raided by the military with the assistance of US forces. Whether a lab is found or the cocaine gets produced the hazardous chemicals are usually dumped into the forest poisoning the local ecosystem. It takes about a tonne (1,000kg) of coca leaves to make a kilo of pure cocaine.
Many farmers have turned to growing coca because of poverty. The US began a campaign of spraying coca fields with herbicides which destroys the land and the health of the inhabitants of the affected region. Ordinary staple crops such as banana’s are also destroyed in the process so farmers are then forced to grow more coca to recuperate their loses, so spraying actually further exasperates the problem. The effects of the Agent Orange herbicide used by the Americans during the Vietnam War continues to result in thousands of gruesome deformities in newborn babies to this day due to the persistent nature of dioxins in the Vietnamese ecosystem. It remains to be seen how these chemicals will affect those living in the contaminated areas of Latin America. Many locals are justifiably outraged that a sovereign country is being sprayed with toxic chemicals by a foreign military for producing a crop that has always been beneficial to them.
*In fact more Colombians die every year from American tobacco than the amount of Americans who die from Colombian cocaine.
Could you imagine the reaction if Colombia began to spray the government subsidized tobacco fields of the United States? This has led to the election of populist leaders like President Evo Morales in Bolivia. Evo Morales is a former coca farmer and the first indigenous president of Bolivia. Seeing as the majority of the population are indeginous people this was an incredible achievement for Bolivia and didn’t seem to receive as much international attention as the election of Barak Obama.
Crack and Paco
“Free base” and “Crack” cocaine is refined from the powder into a smokeable solid or “rock”. This form of cocaine is highly addictive and lasts for only a short period of time. The crack epidemic in the United States started in the 1980’s and began to subside in the early 90’s. This wave of crack that engulfed inner city America, particularly affected poorer black communities and is responsible for the worst homicide rate in the United States since the prohibition of alcohol. Crack is often referred to as the “poor man’s cocaine” and penalties for possession and supply are far harsher than for the “rich man’s” version. Crack was introduced into Ireland and the UK by African and Jamaican criminals.
Another variant of cocaine now gaining popularity in Latin America is “paco”. If crack is the “poor man’s cocaine” then paco is the even “poorer man’s crack”. This substance is the toxic residue left over from cocaine production and is wreaking havoc in the impoverished “barrios” of the region.
Catch part 2 HERE