FESTIVE thrill-seekers chasing a cocaine high may be snorting a horror cocktail of pet worming powder and PESTICIDES, experts warned last night.
A single line of the Class A party drug could contain as little as ten per cent coke - with the rest made up of lethal cutting agents.
And cops and health specialists insist just one sniff of the illicit white powder can trigger headaches, vomiting and even DEATH from a massive heart attack.
The terrifying reality was last night laid bare by a police chief with the elite Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency.
Detective Superintendent Willie McColl told The Scottish Sun: "People think they are taking cocaine, but the cash they are handing over is buying a lot of other things.
"Mixing agents used to bulk out the cocaine can include anything from boric acid - which is an insecticide for cockroaches - to pet worming powder, tetramisole hydrochloride.
"Our concern is that people don't realise that these mixes exist or the strength of what they are taking.
"But taking this stuff could result in a heart attack - especially when mixed with alcohol."
Cocaine, or 'Charlie', was once the drug of the super-rich - costing as much as £200 for a gramme back in 1981.
But the market has exploded since being taken over by ruthless home-grown crime gangs - and a gramme can now be bought for as little as £40.
Det Supt McColl, 47, said: "There has been a growth in the cocaine market in recent years.
"It was seen as the drug of the rich and famous but prices have fallen and many others can now buy it.
"The attraction of the drug has spread across a wide range of people in our communities.
"People will take it in recreational settings such as pubs and nightclubs, but also sitting with friends around the dining table.
"Much of it is taken in the belief - the wrong belief - that it is safe and clean, but it is not.
"That drop in price has been brought about by a strong dilution of the drug.
"Organised crime groups adulterate the drug with various mixing agents to make them more money and maximum profits.
"But they are motivated by greed, money and power - they do not care one bit about those individuals that will use the drug."
Drug barons 'cut' the cocaine with various horrifying substances to double, and even treble, the amounts they can sell on the streets.
But the concoction can include stimulants, anaesthetics, antihistamines and even drugs used to treat heart patients.
Drinking alcohol after taking coke also produces its own chemical, cocaethylene, which increases the risk of cardiac arrest.
Ex-drug squad cop McColl revealed: "The adulteration today can be quite extreme.
"It can include something like phenacitin, which was removed from the medical supply years ago because it has carcinogenic (cancer-causing) properties.
"It can also include things like benzocaine and lignocaine which are anaesthetics used by dentists.
"There are many other mixing agents used by dealers out there and there are clear harms from taking these things.
"And then, of course, mixing cocaine with another substance such as alcohol can raise the risks even further."
It is reckoned five tonnes of cocaine is smuggled into Scotland every year. The vile trade's annual turnover is also estimated at £400million, according to European Union research.
But, frighteningly, the cocaine batches will already have been mixed several times BEFORE they even reach our shores.
Det Supt McColl added: "A lot of cocaine destined for Scotland will come from Colombia.
"It is a very violent trade and some families in Colombia are forced into producing the drug while others are threatened into becoming mules and transporting it out of the country.
"It is usually taken from South America and then into west Africa, on to southern Europe and then into the UK.
"So it will change hands many times and each person involved will want their share of the profit."
But the SCDEA is determined to disrupt the evil dealers at every available opportunity. And the tactic has already earned results, with a number of high-profile arrests and seizures of up to £100million.
Det Supt McColl said: "The efforts of the SCDEA remain steadfast in stopping the flow of this drug into Scotland's communities.
"The stuff sold on the streets today can contain as little as ten per cent cocaine so it is not actually real cocaine.
"And the market is being driven by organised crime groups who are intent on maximising their profit with no care for anyone else."
He added: "It's not the safe and clean drug some believe it to be, it is highly addictive and the harm is significant.
"But we are alert and our determination is to continue to keep tackling those drug dealers, head on."
December 7, 2009
The Scottish Sun