‘More than 50’ cocaine cutting agents identified

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More than 50 cutting agents have been identified in cocaine, including some that can cause ‘serious medical harm’, according to a report from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). Although cocaine powder remains the second most commonly used illegal drug, use levels have been on a ‘general downward’ trend since 2009, says Cocaine powder: review of the evidence of prevalence and patterns of use, harms and implications.

The council initiated the review partly because of concerns over perceptions ‘that the drug is “safe”,’ it says, with even infrequent use carrying the risk of ‘acute health problems such as cardiovascular issues, temporary psychotic symptoms and convulsions’. The review’s conclusions are similar to previous reports in finding evidence of a two-tier market, with most of the cocaine powder available ‘of very low purity’.

Among the document’s recommendations are that commissioners ensure that cocaine treatment services are accessible and sufficient to meet local needs, and that more is done to develop assessment and brief intervention models for use in generic settings.

‘Once characterised as the preserve of wealthy bankers and celebrities, the research highlighted in this report shows a cheaper, low-purity version of the drug has permeated society far more widely,’ said ACMD chair Professor Les Iversen. ‘Given the clear health risks associated with even infrequent cocaine use, and associated issues such as dependency and crime, this development has posed a huge challenge to health professionals, law enforcement, educators and academics.’