A few weeks ago, more than 20 people died after consuming adulterated cocaine in Buenos Aires. These deaths cannot be in vain and it is time to regulate drugs.
Consumers are exposed to the ethics or knowledge of traffickers. Photo: LatinAmerican Post
LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Goméz Hernández
One of the facts that caught the attention of the media in Latin America, was the fateful news of 24 people dying from consuming adulterated cocaine. According to the Buenos Aires Minister of Health, Nicolás Kreplak, the drug was rendered with an "opiate ". This, in addition to demonstrating the risks of drug use, also shows the vulnerability to which consumers are exposed, not only in the country of the Río de la Plata, but throughout the region.
Consumers, who may be addicts or just sporadic customers, are at the mercy of the trust and ethics of their providers. Additionally, many drugs, such as cocaine, are not sold pure, they are sold mixed with some other substance.
When a person goes to buy any type of drug, you are making a blind purchase, not knowing what type of product you buy, without any seal of quality or table of contents, as when people buy any medicine or food.
So, if the supplier is wrong in the dose, makes the calculations wrong when giving it, or changes the substance, or the formula, the consumer may be facing a health risk, as happened in Argentina. But the same thing happens in any other country.
The policy of prohibitionism has not worked in any nation. According to UN data, between 2010 and 2019, the number of users of narcotic substances increased by 22% in the world. In addition, the amount of drugs being exported is increasing. According to the United Nations, in 2020, 1,010 tons of pure cocaine were produced in Colombia, 8% more than in 2019. All this, despite the fact that, according to the BBC, the United States has spent, in the country alone, more than 11,000 million dollars in the war against drugs.
The solutions are multiple and can vary how willing we are to regulate consumption. The first option is to allow and deliver detection tests. The simple possibility that consumers can go to a specialized center to be able to determine the quality of the substance that they are going to consume. These detection tests work to identify the components of a dose. People bring what they are going to consume and thus they can have guidance and reduce the risk of intoxication or overdose.
This is because adulterated cocaine can be rendered with enhancers of its effects, rodenticides, ground glass, brick ground, caffeine, lidocaine, talc or sugar, etc. This makes the sale more profitable, but it can also lead to poisoning (as is the case in Buenos Aires) or simply an overdose by varying the concentrations of the drug being consumed, be it heroin or cocaine.
Finally, the consumption and sale of narcotic drugs can also be fully regulated. Regulation is not the same as legalization. Yes, it is true that by regulating, it is being legalized in some way, but with conditions. For example, legalizing would mean that anyone can plant, produce, transport and sell the drug or its supplies without major rules. While regulating, is setting clear rules to produce or sell.
For example, the same State may be the only one in charge of cultivating, producing and selling cocaine or marijuana. In this way, the consumer will be able to access these products at a regulated price and with explicit indications and content. It will also reduce the chances of overdose.
These measures can not only save the lives of consumers. They could also take away the business from the mafias and thus reduce the rates of violence in the producing countries and in the consuming countries. Obviously, this does not mean encouraging consumption, but discouraging it and changing to, at least , intelligent and responsible consumption.
Of course, all this with educational campaigns that reduce substance use, but that do not stigmatize consumers and understand that an occasional consumer is not an addict and that an addict is a person who suffers from a disease and that should be a public health concern and not one of violence.