HIGHLY dangerous batches of cocaine and ecstasy pills have hit the Australian market, with drug experts and police warning they had been bulked up with pesticides and lethal chemicals.
An international drug conference heard a worldwide shortage of MDMA had led drug manufacturers to turn to other chemicals to keep up the supply of ecstasy pills.
The same is occurring on Sydney's streets, with police detecting dangerous chemicals such as the de-worming pesticide levamisole - deemed too dangerous for human consumption.
At the same time, cocaine use was spiking. Drug squad head Detective Superintendent Nick Bingham said officers were arresting greater numbers of people for possessing the drug. It, too, was being been "cut" with chemicals.
Overseas testing had shown that toxic chemical MCPP was being used in cocaine to bulk it out.
The chemical is used to induce severe migraines and headaches to test the efficacy of medications.
It is very, very dangerous because people don't know what's in the drugs, Supt Bingham said.
He said the social acceptance of cocaine among Sydney society was causing concern.
We have certainly seen a spike in seizures and arrests of cocaine, Supt Bingham said.
It's the first time we have seen cocaine seizures significantly overtake heroin, although it is still a small population of the overall drug seizures.
[But] there's a hidden user group ... that we don't necessarily see and who don't generally come into contact with police or commit a crime apart from possessing and using cocaine.
There are calls to set up a warning system, with drug experts believing it could save lives.
National Drug and Alcohol and Research and training director Paul Dillon has returned from the international drug conference in Zurich, where many of the countries attending have a system in place to test drugs and warn users of their content.
If we want to be serious about prevention, the more information we give users, research shows they change their behaviour, he said.
By Kate Sikora
July 12, 2010