How Cocaine Makes It on the Streets

One of the most famous users of cocaine was Sigmund Freud. The legendary therapist believed that the drug could help him to stay awake, and perhaps help other people to kick an addiction to morphine, according to an article produced by CNN. Over time, Freud became aware that the drug truly was dangerous, and he was able to work through his addiction and ultimately stop abusing the drug. It’s a story that’s repeated time and time again on the streets of the United States: People begin using the drug because it seems helpful, and they are then pulled into an addiction that is difficult, if not impossible, to control. Finding out where cocaine comes from might inspire some of these users to get the help they’ll need to control their addictions, as the sources of the drug can be incredibly unpleasant.

Manufacturing Cocaine

For centuries, native people in South America have pulled leaves from the Erythroxylon coca bush and chewed the leaves to extract the pure cocaine held inside. The amount of cocaine that can be obtained this way is quite low, however, and few people outside of specific parts of South America had access to these plants, and the drugs they held. In order to help spread the benefits of the drug to a larger audience, a scientist isolated the drug in 1860, according to an article produced by the University of Arizona, and this purified form of the drug was used in standard over-the-counter medications. It was also used as an anesthetic for surgical procedures. Those extraction procedures are still in use today, and they help to explain how the drug moved from being a regional act to a global trade worth millions.

Making cocaine involves combining the leaves of this cocoa bush with a few chemicals that can be readily purchased at a hardware store. The powder that results is quite pure, and quite valuable, and in order to make the supply of the drug last a bit longer, producers often mix in other ingredients.

Common Ingredients

  • Baby powder
  • Powdered milk
  • Sugar
  • Antihistamines

These ingredients have a look and feel similar to powdered cocaine, and they can be quite hard for the average user to detect. They are much less expensive than pure cocaine, however, so they allow the dealers to stretch a small amount of a powerful and expensive drug into many thousands and thousands of pounds of weaker, but still expensive, product to sell.

Cocaine is also sometimes sold in a glassy, rock form known as “crack.” Manufacturing this drug is also quite easy, and involves combining powdered cocaine with inert household ingredients and water. The tiny crystals that form are often placed in small bags, balloons or old film canisters.

Sources of Cocaine

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), cocaine leaves are typically grown in Bolivia, Peru and Columbia, and the manufacturing process takes place in laboratories located deep in the jungles of these countries. When the manufacturing process is complete, the drugs are given to transportation experts who deliver it to eager users in this country. The DEA reports that about 90 percent of the cocaine that reaches the United States comes from Colombia.

The DEA also reports that about 65 percent of the cocaine that enters this country comes across the southwest border. The Colombian drug cartels use a variety of methods to smuggle this cocaine, and many of them are extremely unpleasant to think about. For example, some smugglers ask drug mules to swallow balloons full of cocaine before they climb aboard airplanes or drive across the border in their cars. These mules then retrieve the drugs from their feces when they have arrived at their destination. If these packets of drugs burst, the mules can die. This is exactly what happened to an Irish drug mule, according to news reports, when he ingested condoms full of cocaine, and those packets burst in his stomach. The man was in his early 30s when he died. Some drug traffickers stop women and children in busy airports, according to news reports, and ask these harried travelers to carry small pieces of luggage through security. These travelers can face jail time, or worse, if they’re caught with large amounts of drugs in their possession, even though these people may have no idea that the packages they were asked to hold contain drugs.

Drug smugglers might also stash their drugs in shipments of:

  • Computers
  • Clothing
  • Shoes
  • Puppies
  • Coffee
  • Plastic buckets

Some of these methods are effective, allowing smugglers to move their drugs through the system and onto the other side. Other methods are not effective, and the drugs are quickly detected and the smugglers are sent to jail. The amount of money that the United States spends on detecting drug smuggling, and imprisoning smugglers, is incredibly vast. In fact, according to NBC News, the 40-year war on drugs in the United States has cost $1 trillion thus far, money that could be spent on education, roads or affordable housing projects. The drug trade in Colombia has also produced devastating results. The drug cartels that are responsible for the production and trafficking of the drug are notorious for torturing and killing those who oppose them, and many people in the country live in fear of what will happen to them if they speak out against the manufacture and sale of drugs within the country. People who abuse cocaine are, perhaps inadvertently, contributing to this cycle of misery, both at home and abroad.

Cocaine, the Law and Addiction

The creation of cocaine, possession of the drug or usage of the drug are all considered illegal activities, and they could land a user in jail for a significant period of time. For example, the DEA reports that federal trafficking penalties for 5 kilograms or more of cocaine could lead to a sentence of not less than 10 years on the first offense, and it could result in a life sentence. Simply possessing or using the drug wouldn’t bring about such a stiff sentence, obviously, but it’s still not considered the sort of issue that would bring about a mere warning.

There are good reasons for these stiff laws, as cocaine is extremely dangerous. For example, an article in the journal Nature demonstrated that a single dosage of cocaine can produce long-term changes in the way the brain processes the neurotransmitter dopamine. In other words, using the drug just one time could bring about devastating consequences that are extremely difficult to correct. Cocaine users often take in very large doses of the drug in binges, repeating these high doses over and over again in order to experience the positive sensations they first felt when they used cocaine. They can do a significant amount of damage to the brain with these repeated episodes of use.

Damage Caused by Repeated Cocaine Use:

  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Bowel gangrene
  • Ongoing depression
  • Weight loss
  • Heart damage
  • Memory dysfunction

They may also face severe and powerful cravings to take the drug again, no matter what the consequences might be. These cravings can be incredibly hard for users to ignore, if they’re able to ignore them at all, and the cravings might keep people trapped in a cycle of addiction for decades.

Therapy can help people with ongoing addictions like this to heal. There are no medications that have been specifically designed to assist with the cravings for cocaine, but in therapy, addicts can learn how to use the power of their minds to help keep their cravings under control, and addicts can also learn how they can restructure their lives to eliminate the temptation to relapse to drug use.

At Axis, we provide this sort of help to people who are addicted to cocaine. We include the family in our therapy programs, ensuring that the addict will have a safe and secure place to go when the addiction therapy process is complete. We also customize our programs to ensure that we address any prior trauma that might have contributed to the development of the addiction. If you’d like to know more about our programs, please call today.