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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Contaminated cocaine in Alberta is a public policy failure that could cost lives

Alberta Health and Wellness officials issued a warning on Friday that cocaine being sold in Alberta could be laced with a dangerous substance that can harm an individual’s immune system.

Seven individuals in Edmonton, Red Deer, southern and northern Alberta have developed a form of immune system suppression after consuming cocaine contaminated with levamisole, a chemical compound developed to treat intestinal worms in humans and animals. The contaminant was likely used as a cutting agent in the processing of cocaine in preparation for retail sale.

“We are advising anyone who develops a fever or other signs of infection and has used cocaine to seek medical attention quickly,” said Dr. Gerry Predy, Alberta’s Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health. “Any skin abscess or lung infection that develops rapidly should also be treated immediately.”

Because cocaine is a prohibited drug, the source of the contaminated product can not be traced to a particular manufacturer, and retailers can not be easily or quickly notified to pull the contaminated product from their inventory. In fact, qualify control of illicit drugs in virtually impossible according to drug policy expert Dr. Bruce Alexander in an interview with the Western Standard:

"It is obviously impossible to set quality standards for illegal drugs, or anything else that is sold on the black market. There is a long history of toxic forms of drugs being sold in Canada, and no hope that this will change without a major revision of the drug laws."

Alexander is professor of psychology at Simon Fraser University and is a director with the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 30, 2008 in Canadian Provincial Politics | Permalink


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Excellent point Matthew. It's not only toxins and contaminants that work their way into prohibited drugs, but the drugs themselves become stronger and more addictive, and therefore more destructive.

Think of the difference between what you can find in a liquor store or bar today versus the dangerous moonshine that was so common under alcohol prohibition.

Before prohibition, opiates like laudanum, heroin, and morphine were relatively safe to use (of course abuse is always a risk with opiates) and available without prescription to help ease pain and treat various ailments. Consider how many people die today from heroin overdoses or from diseases they get from sharing needles.

Likewise with cocaine, which was once an ingredient in Coca Cola. Unless you're a DEA agent or US politician, you need only examine the South American use of coca leaves to realize that there is nothing much worse about the chemicals in cocaine than those in a cup of espresso, but it is prohibition which has made crack and cocaine into killer drugs which only a fool would buy of the street and use.

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-11-30 1:19:27 PM

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