Tag Archives | Cocaine

The New Cocaine Trade

Coca leaf in Bolivia. Photo: Marcello Casal Jr./ABr (CC)

Coca leaf in Bolivia. Photo: Marcello Casal Jr./ABr (CC)

John Lyons reports on some seismic shifts in where cocaine is produced, for the Wall Street Journal:

In the dusty town of Villa Tunari in Bolivia’s tropical coca-growing region, farmers used to barricade their roads against U.S.-backed drug police sent to prevent their leafy crop from becoming cocaine. These days, the police are gone, the coca is plentiful and locals close off roads for multiday block parties—not rumbles with law enforcement.

“Today, we don’t have these conflicts, not one death, not one wounded, not one jailed,” said Leonilda Zurita, a longtime coca-grower leader who is now a Bolivian senator, a day after a 13-piece Latin band wrapped up a boozy festival in town.

The cause for celebration is a fundamental shift in the cocaine trade that is complicating U.S. efforts to fight it. Once concentrated in Colombia, a close U.S. ally in combating drugs, the cocaine business is migrating to nations such as Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, where populist leaders are either ambivalent about cooperating with U.S.

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The World’s First Cocaine Bar

Route-36-cocaine-lounge-001Backpacking tourists flock to La Paz, Bolivia’s Route 36 for long nights of cocaine and Jenga. Is this what your neighborhood dive bar would look like if hard drugs were legalized? The Guardian writes:

The waiter arrives at the table, lowers the tray and places an empty black CD case in the middle of the table. Next to the CD case are two straws and two little black packets. He is so casual he might as well be delivering a sandwich and fries. And he has seen it all.

La Paz, Bolivia, at 3,900m above sea level – an altitude where even two flights of stairs makes your heart race like a hummingbird – is home to the most celebrated bar in all of South America: Route 36, the world’s first cocaine lounge. I sit back to take in the scene – table after table of chatty young backpackers, many of whom are taking a gap year, awaiting a new job or simply escaping the northern hemisphere for the delights of South America, which, for many it seems, include cocaine.

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Nicotine Primes Brain for Cocaine Use

Man SniffingVia ScienceDaily:

Cigarettes and alcohol serve as gateway drugs, which people use before progressing to the use of marijuana and then to cocaine and other illicit substances; this progression is called the “gateway sequence” of drug use. An article in Science Translational Medicine by study author Denise Kandel, PhD, of the Mailman School of Public Health; and Amir Levine, MD; Eric Kandel, MD; and colleagues at Columbia University Medical Center provides the first molecular explanation for the gateway sequence. They show that nicotine causes specific changes in the brain that make it more vulnerable to cocaine addiction ― a discovery made by using a novel mouse model.

Alternate orders of exposure to nicotine and cocaine were examined. The authors found that pretreatment with nicotine greatly alters the response to cocaine in terms of addiction-related behavior and synaptic plasticity (changes in synaptic strength) in the striatum, a brain region critical for addiction-related rewards.

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Scientist Working On Cocaine, Nicotine Vaccines

cocaineWhatever next – McDonald’s vaccine? Douglas Quenqua reports for the New York Times:

Imagine a vaccine against smoking: People trying to quit would light up a cigarette and feel nothing. Or a vaccine against cocaine, one that would prevent addicts from enjoying the drug’s high.

Though neither is imminent, both are on the drawing board, as are vaccines to combat other addictions. While scientists have historically focused their vaccination efforts on diseases like polio, smallpox and diphtheria — with great success — they are now at work on shots that could one day release people from the grip of substance abuse.

“We view this as an alternative or better way for some people,” said Dr. Kim D. Janda, a professor at the Scripps Research Institute who has made this his life’s work. “Just like with nicotine patches and the gum, all those things are just systems to get people off the drugs.”

Dr.

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What Would Drug Legalization Look Like?

Cocaine-ProblemsSuppose we decriminalized hard drugs — heroin, cocaine, and all the rest? The Indypendent ponders the scenario and how we could make it work:

For heroin, says Eric Sterling, the conundrum is how much use would spread if “the price goes down and the ease of acquisition goes up,” but if a legal scheme set the price too high or made the restrictions too inconvenient, users would go back to the illegal market.

He posits a system in which “addiction management” specialists would supply enough drugs to keep addicts from getting sick, but would not tolerate criminal behavior. Rehab and counseling would be available, and addicts might also be required to work or go to school.

Switzerland, which had close to the highest rate of heroin addiction in Europe in the mid-’90s — with an estimated 30,000 addicts out of about 7 million people — has had some success with heroin maintenance.

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Cocaine Vaccine Could Make Drug Addiction a Distant Memory

ScarfaceInteresting find from Alasdair Wilkins on io9.com:

The first ever vaccine for drug addiction has just been created. By combining a cocaine-like molecule with part of the common cold virus, you get a vaccine that turns the immune system against cocaine, keeping it away from the brain.

So far, the vaccine has only been tested on mice, but the results are extraordinary. Mice given the vaccine no longer exhibited any of the hyperactive signs of a cocaine high when they were next given the drug.

The vaccine was created by taking just the part of the cold virus that alerts the body’s immune system to its presence, and then researchers connected the signalling mechanism to a more stable version of the cocaine molecule.

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What Many Bags of Cocaine Look Like Inside You

Drug MuleListen up drug mules: please start looking for a new job if you can. This is a hell of a way to make a living. Via SF Gate:

A CT scan taken at the University of Bern’s Inselspital Hospital shows seven packets of swallowed cocaine as light-gray circular and oblong shapes in a smuggler’s stomach above a bright white snake-like portion of bowel.

The university’s Dr. Patricia Flach led a study that found that CT scans detected cocaine contraband better than X-rays.

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The Cocaine Supply Chain

National Geographic investigates popular “recreational” drugs in its upcoming Drugs, Inc. series, starting this Sunday, July 11 with a look at coke, then continuing on to marijuana, heroin and meth:

The supply chain of cocaine stretches around our world, bringing vast wealth to a few … and misery to millions. Follow its trail through the eyes of peasant farmers producing cocaine paste, a trafficker tied to Mexican cartels and a 28-year-old crack dealer in Miami’s poorest neighborhood. And literally see the true nature of cocaine addiction via revolutionary brain photography in a leading lab in Brookhaven, N.Y.

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World Cup Replica Made of Cocaine Found in Colombia

World Cup of CokeBBC News reports:

A replica World Cup trophy seized by anti-drugs police in Colombia is made out of cocaine, lab tests have confirmed. The 36cm (14in) statue was found in a delivery crate at Bogota airport.

The crate was in an airmail warehouse waiting to be sent to an address in Spain, airport anti-drug chief Jose Piedrahita said. In another development, a submarine built by drug-traffickers was found in Ecuador before its maiden voyage.

The World Cup replica was made up of 11kg (24 lb) of the drug, mixed with acetone or gasoline to make it mouldable.

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Cocaine Can Rot Your Flesh

Cocaine

Photo: Efimero (CC)

Fox News reporting on a Time.com story:

Besides making you edgy and skittish, with a propensity toward emotional highs and lows, cocaine can also rot your skin, according to a study reported Monday by Time.com.

Researchers found that the illegal drug can contain agents that contribute to low white cell count or dying skin tissue, giving people the appearance of wearing rotting flesh.

The findings were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine after a discovery by doctors at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. It was found that women who had a history of cocaine use also tended to have discolorations on various body parts like their cheeks, buttocks, thighs and earlobes.

Those symptoms are consistent with use of the medication levamisole, which is used by veterinarians for de-worming farm animals. “Almost 80 percent of the cocaine coming into this country has levamisole mixed in,” said Dr.

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