According to the DEA’s annual Drug Threat Assessment cocaine use is on the rise. It looks as if, while in the midst of an opioid epidemic, a lethal storm of cocaine has quietly made landfall in the US.
Cocaine-related deaths spiked in 2006 at 7,500 and then slowly declined for several years. However, since 2010, these numbers have started to climb again, reaching over 6,700 in 2015.
Coke Smugglers Do the Darnedest Things
In 2016, 92 percent of cocaine seized in the U.S. came from Columbia, with the remainder originating in Peru. As the nation’s primary supplier, Colombian drug cartels make enormous profits from the illegal drug trade.
DEA officials report, in order to meet increased demand, cartels are producing more cocaine and developing even more innovative tactics to get it into the country.
Drug traffickers go to great lengths to ensure their product reaches the profitable U.S. market. Attempts by law enforcement to stop their cocaine shipments have forced many smugglers to find some creative hiding places:
- In July of 2016, divers discovered five kilos of cocaine hidden on the ocean floor 50 feet below the water’s surface just off the coast of Key West, Florida.
- Just a month before that, smugglers used a false compartment in a tractor trailer’s fuel tank to hide their drug shipment.
- While in the fall of 2016, officials seized another tractor trailer and discovered over 12.7 kilograms of cocaine mixed in with the legitimate cargo – a load of shaving kits headed for Pennsylvania.
How Cocaine Kills
On its own, cocaine is deadly. A potent stimulant, it causes a dangerously high heart rate and other heart problems which can be fatal. Cocaine also elevates blood pressure, which can lead to stroke or other serious side effects.
A single dose may cause a life threatening overdose. Even a small amount of cocaine has been proven to cause an irregular heart rhythm, elevated blood pressure and death from a heart attack.
Recently, its use has become even more dangerous. To increase profits, drug dealers are mixing the powerful opioid, fentanyl, into cocaine. This deadly duo was responsible for 37 percent of overdose deaths last year in New York.
What to Expect
The DEA believes the recent surge in the production and distribution of cocaine will lead to its increased use. As that number grows, officials expect not only to see more cocaine-related deaths, seizures of shipments, positive workplace drug tests and even more imaginative schemes by smugglers to expand the cocaine market.
If we want to withstand this onslaught of cocaine, we might have to get creative, too.
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