DRUG dealers are putting users at risk – by cutting drugs with deadly substances.
Chemical used to treat fishes and worms are commonly mixed with cocaine to increase the profits for the dealers.
And police have also found banned chemicals linked with cancer have been used to fool drug-users.
Now police in West Yorkshire have spoken about their concerns.
They are worried about the continued deterioration in drug purity and the fact that drug users are increasingly and unwittingly putting their health at risk.
Former Huddersfield detective Bryan Dent – now West Yorkshire Police drugs co-ordinator – has warned drug users: “What you think you are using is probably not what you are actually taking into your body – purity levels continue to fall and are a real worry.”
The trends in West Yorkshire have reflected national trends – the amount of actual drug in a deal has fallen while at the same time the mixing agent has increased.
Mr Dent added: “In order that profits can be maximised by drug dealers the drug is mixed with other commodities which then makes, say a kilo of cocaine, into 1.5 or 2 kilos.
“They have more volume of the drug to sell, making an increased profit. As a result of the organised crime groups that are involved in the importation and distribution of many Class A and B drugs they maximise their profit margins.
“But their unscrupulous activities can have dangerous implications for the end of the supply chain – the drug user.
“We know that the people mixing/cutting the imported drugs are doing so in the UK and it is the UK criminal activities which gives us cause for concern. They are treating drug users, treatment agencies and other organisations with such contempt and disregard for safety.”
Anyone in West Yorkshire who uses heroin will actually only be consuming between 35% and 38% of the drug.
The remainder of the fix will be made up of probably paracetamol or caffeine.
The range of purity which the police in West Yorkshire see is typically from 74% down as low as 1%.
“That means an awful lot of other substances being consumed by the heroin user either injecting or smoking of which they have no knowledge,” said Mr Dent.
For cocaine users, the situation is even worse.
Last year the average purity of seized cocaine was 26.4%, but latest figures from January to March this year have decreased to 21.9%.
The purity of seizures range from 89% right down to 1%.
The most common cutting agents the Forensic Science Service found in cocaine seizure are:
Benzocaine: a local anaesthetic drug in creams, ointments and suntan lotions that has been used as a fish anaesthetic.
Tetramisole: used to treat worms and parasitic infestation in the gut – primarily of animals.
Phenacetine: this substance was banned in the UK some years ago because of its links to cancer and renal failure.
Lignocaine: a local anaesthetic used for heart disorders.
Mr Dent added: “In addition to the cocaine itself having the potential to cause a stroke or heart attack as well as rotting the nose, the substances which the cocaine is mixed with – unbeknown to the user – could be exposing them to cancer or an animal wormer.”
The most commonly adulterated drug in the UK at the moment is amphetamine which has an average seizure purity of 7% and is usually mixed with either caffeine or glucose.
The potential harms to the users are enormous.
Mr Dent said: “Because of the low purity levels of these drugs the users are exposing themselves to potentially significant harms and these harms are substantially increased when alcohol is also consumed.
“In addition to physical problems, mental health issues are increased and has consequences not only for the individual but their family and the community.
“Criminal gangs behave in an unscrupulous way and are reckless as to what they mix the drugs with, showing an absolute disregard for the safety of the consumer.
“We take every opportunity to arrest these callous dealers of misery and are fully committed to work with our partners in the enforcement arena to investigate and dismantle their distribution networks and to attack the wealth.
“Why should they be allowed to get away with making money by exposing vulnerable users to even more sinister health problems?
“Drug dealers will be investigated caught, stripped of their ill-gotten gains and sent to prison.
“Drug users will be encouraged to get into and stay in treatment. There is no such thing as a safe drug.”