Talking illegal drugs with local police

It might sound crazy, but when you compare cocaine to some of the product circulating rural Nova Scotia, coke is the healthier option.

Let’s be clear: cocaine is still an extremely dangerous drug. The substance contributes to strokes and heart attacks, cerebral hemorrhages, seizures, and respiratory failure. It’s highly addictive, and regular use of the drug can decimate one’s bank accounts, result in impaired driving, job losses, family conflict, and death. All things being equal, avoiding coke is a pretty good idea.

However, some of the coke being spotted locally is even more dangerous than the list above implies.

“The drug traffickers don’t care about you,” said RCMP Corporal Curtis Kuchta, speaking to The Reporter late last week. “They care about making money.”

Just days before talking with The Reporter, Kuchta was featured in an RMCP press release regarding the extremely low purity levels of some local cocaine.

As a long-serving RCMP officer, Kuchta doesn’t give the vibe of a man shocked by all that much; however, he said he and his fellow officers were taken back by the amount of cutting agents found in some local cocaine.

As much as 95 per cent of some local cocaine, he said, was cutting agents. That means only five per cent was actual coke.

“The whole point is to increase their volume which maximizes their profits,” he said. “Stuff is taken out and other stuff is put in, just to maximize profits. People have no idea what they’re injecting into their arms or snorting into their bodies.

“This is all about greed.”

Kuchta and the RCMP released a list of the commonly-spotted cutting agents used in the province. The list is frightening.

Included in that list is methamphetamine, a central nervous system stimulant that can be lethal and, in many cases, causes a user to lose his or her teeth.

Phenacetin is on the list. It is a pain-reliever banned in 1983 due to cancer-related concerns and Kidney-related issues.

Levamisole has been found as a cutting agent. Interestingly, levamisole is listed on the World Health Organization’s list of Essential Medicines, so it’s not a bad drug when used for the proper purpose. That purpose is the treatment of individuals suffering from parasitic worms. It’s also very useful as a deworming agent for livestock.

Lidocaine is another drug used as a cutting agent that, under the proper circumstances, serves good purposes. It’s basically a local anesthetic but, when used recreationally, it counts as an illegal substance.

The final cutting agent mentioned by the RCMP was benzocaine, a local anesthetic that can be found in several over-the-counter medications. When used properly, the drug can be useful. However, when overused, it can lead to seizures, coma, irregular heartbeat, and a deadening of sensation in the extremities.

“It’s one thing if people make a decision to use cocaine, but injecting or snorting this stuff could cause some severe problems,” Kuchta said.

It is possible cutting cocaine with other addictive drugs could be a strategy to get people hooked on new substances, Kuchta said, but generally coke is cut in order to maximize profit. The substances used as cutting agents have to be cheaper than the cocaine itself, otherwise cutting the coke wouldn’t make financial sense.

“Again, the whole point is to increase volume which maximizes profits,” he said.

One good thing in terms of the local drug scene is that fentanyl has yet to make a major impact in Atlantic Canada. The opioid is commonly regarded as 100 times more potent than morphine and, in 2017, the number of fentanyl-related deaths in Alberta was 583.

“There’s a huge problem with it out west,” Kuchta said. “I had the opportunity to speak with other members from Alberta, and it was unbelievable hearing some of the police officer’s stories about what’s going on out there.”

In a recent press release, provincial RCMP said that the eventual appearance of fentanyl is a very likely possibility, and the fear that it will be used as a cutting agent is quite real.

From a common sense perspective, it seems likely fentanyl’s appearance in Nova Scotia is only a matter of time. Our province doesn’t exist under a dome, so we would be well-advised to realize fentanyl will eventually make its presence felt. Money is to be made by distributing the product, so the product will eventually come.

That doesn’t mean we – either RCMP or regular folks wanting people to stay healthy – are unarmed in this fight.

One advantage we have is knowledge. Another tool we have at our disposal is the tongues in our mouths. It’s time to remind young people of the dangers of drugs. It’s time to tell users that programs exist to help them get clean.

“When I talk to parents, I tell them to invest extra time to tell their kids, at a young age, to make healthy decisions,” Kuchta said. “When I talk to high school kids, I tell them to consider all the factors of what you might actually be taking.”

Education is the key to letting people know, at any age, the full scope of the decisions they make. Without question, education won’t make everyone see the light, but some will listen.

And making some listen is a whole lot better than having no one listen at all.