Monday, May 30, 2016

i'm in love with the coco

Right, so, my work recently got an email from a journalist:
"I'm writing a feature about cocaine cut with coconut extract doing the rounds, and I was wondering whether I could talk to anyone about the science behind the two being combined, and whether it can impact how safe it is."
My reaction (and that of just about anyone I asked) was a general "dafuq?!" - especially b/c I later learned that, of all things, this was meant to be an indicator of purity - and my response accordingly read:
"Hi, I'm happy to help if I can, but.... are you sure this is a thing?? Where did you hear about this?" 
Sure enough though, it turned out to be a thing, and I did my best to answer the questions shot my way (...with a straight face - thankfully they were in writing). I don't know what - if any of it - will make it into the article, but here's what I had to say about that.

I'd love to hear what those in the know have to say about it, btw. I'm only as smart as a ~1hr Google search here.


Is this something you’ve heard of before? Or anything similar? 

No. I honestly thought it was a joke when you brought it up. I remember there was strawberry scented coke going around LA many years ago, but I don’t think anyone made claims about its purity.

That said, I did some reading up and asking around about it, and it’s starting to make SOME sense (although the vast majority of people seemed as baffled by the idea as I was) — and it looks like a case of mixing up 2 very different ideas.

1. There is cocaine cut with flavoured extracts, including coconut. This is as easy as adding powdered drink mix, or mixing in/keeping it around scented oils until it absorbs the smell/flavour. This can only ever decrease the purity of your product. Adding ANYTHING other than more cocaine will decrease purity - any other belief makes absolutely no sense. In this case, I can only imagine it’s a branding thing, or a novelty thing, or maybe even to cover up evidence for other kinds of tampering with the product (like cutting with adulterants that have a flavour of their own). I don’t know about the health implications of that, it depends on what it ends up being cut with, and how.

2. There is “washed” cocaine - “lavado” - that is apparently quite common in Mexico, and quite hard to come by otherwise. From what I can tell, it involves putting the product through a few more processing steps to “wash off” impurities, then recrystallising it, for a purer end product (that can be sold for a higher price). I should note here that I don’t know how to make cocaine – so it’s possible that the processing steps I read about are absolute nonsense. In any event, lavado seems to commonly be flavoured, although I don’t know why. (Maybe to make up for the volume loss in the washing process? But then you’re back to point 1…) Whereas I can see option 1 having more physical health implications (sinus infections, etc), this stuff is probably more likely to get you in trouble with compulsive use and addiction, since people report a clean high and little to no comedown (a recipe for doing more of it more often, which leads to a tolerance and increased cardiovascular risk, etc etc).

From what I’m seeing, people are confounding options 1 and 2, which is why the idea of “cocaine cut with coconut extract/milk” being “purer” was so perplexing. My opinion is that people should probably know the difference and be more informed customers if they’re going to put things up their nose. I can see a lot of option 1 happening in an effort to pretend it’s option 2, which will leave you ripped off and exposed to unexpected/unintended health risks. A regulated market would also be helpful here - option 1 seems like it could be used for rather sinister purposes, and bulking up the product with smelly powders (or maybe even actual coconut flakes, who knows) helps drive up the profit margins that keep violent criminals in business.

How would coke be purified with coconut?

It wouldn't.

Would adding coconut make coke more dangerous/safe?

Nothing makes cocaine more safe :) I’m sorry, you’re doing a risky thing with health implications (which isn’t a judgment – we do lots of risky things with health implications all the time). I think knowing WHY your cocaine smells of coconut would be the best risk mitigation strategy you’ve got here. 
None of this would be an issue, of course, if it weren’t an unregulated blackmarket product with no one knowing what went in or comes out. A regulated market would sell you a product of a known purity – smelly or not – so you can actually make judgments about levels of danger/safety.

Could it make it more addictive/appealing to a younger audience? - like alcopops

Could do. I can see that. I bet a lot of dealers are doing option 1 in hopes of that.

Are there health benefits of purifying with coconut extract/milk? 

I would imagine not. IF (big if) the ‘lavado’ thing is true, then there would be some health benefit to not putting god-knows-what up your nose, but I know that’s not what you mean. So no. This isn’t like doing coke plus drinking coconut water. (Has anyone ever shown any actual benefits to coconut water, btw?)

Is this another example of millennials doing bad stuff but being health conscious and offsetting it with something healthy? 

I should hope not. Cocaine may add some temporary benefits to your sense of well-being, but it is not a healthy thing, no matter what you do alongside. It's like going to McDonalds and thinking you're healthy b/c you ordered the DIET coke. Maybe chew coca leaves if health is what you’re after. Processed powder cocaine may not necessarily ruin your health, but you can’t hack it to do it any favours, either.

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