Cocaine makes a comeback; officials say $1B bust shows rising demand in Pa.

Cocaine makes a comeback; officials say $1B bust shows rising demand in Pa.

Officials say cocaine is making a comeback in Pennsylvania after more than $1 billion in cocaine was seized from a container ship in Philadelphia Tuesday.

Six people have been charged in connection with the raid, which saw about 35,000 pounds of cocaine seized from the ship. According to an affidavit, members of the crew admitted to loading “bales of cocaine” onto the ship. U.S. Attorney William McSwain called it “one of the largest drug seizures in United States history” in a tweet.

The seizure coincides with a rise in cocaine prevalence across the United States, Philadelphia-based DEA Special Agent Patrick Trainor said. He attributed the resurgence to abundant harvests in South America, where he said the drugs originate. Methamphetamine has also been abundant and cheap, Trainor said.

“We certainly have noticed an increased in both drugs over the past few years,” Trainor said.

While opioids like heroin and fentanyl have dominated the conversation in Pennsylvania, Dauphin County Coroner Graham Hetrick said he’s seeing a local rise in deaths involving stimulants like cocaine.

“I see a resurgence of it,” Hetrick said.

The number of times cocaine and methamphetamine were detected during an autopsy increased in Dauphin County from 2017 to 2018, according to data from the coroner’s office. Cocaine is mentioned 24 times in 2018, and only eight times in 2017. There were also more drug-related deaths in 2018 than in 2017, according to the data.

Deaths related to cocaine and other stimulants have been on the rise for several years. A recent CDC report showed that deaths involving cocaine and other stimulants have been on the rise across all age groups. Nationwide, nearly 14,000 drug overdose deaths involved cocaine in 2017, a 34-percent increase from 2016, the CDC reported.

Opioids still have an impact on the rise in stimulant use, as Trainor and Hetrick said illicit fentanyl is being combined with stimulants cocaine with deadly effects. Trainor attributed some of those deaths to users not knowing what is in the drugs they’re taking.

“We’ve seen cases where drug traffickers themselves don’t necessarily know what they’re selling,” Trainor said.

The increase of cocaine and meth has ties to the opioid crisis, Trainor said. He noted that in some cases, opioid users take an “upper” to stave off the effects of withdrawal.

Hetrick said the rise in stimulants might have to do with the amount of resources being put toward reducing opioid use. He likened the focus on specific types of drugs to “whack-a-mole” and said that much of the money and resources going toward the opioid crisis should be instead treating addiction as a whole.

“We have an addiction crisis, we don’t have an opioid crisis,” Hetrick said.

Education and a better understanding of addiction would be more impactful on driving down the prevalence of drug use, Hetrick said. He said specific drugs are simply “tools” in a substance use disorder.

“Whether it’s stimulants, a combination of cocaine and fentanyl, or heroin itself, they’re all tools,” Hetrick said. “The conditions for addiction are within the person, and the drugs are the tools. That’s what we have to concentrate on.”

Another reason these drugs are prevalent in Pennsylvania is its location, Pennsylvania State Police Communications Director Ryan Tarkowski said.

“Pennsylvania’s unique geographic location and converging highway system make it a natural conduit for the trafficking of illicit drugs and other contraband – providing access to major cities and airports, as well as one of the largest seaports on the east coast,” Tarkowski said.

Tarkowski said collaboration between state, federal and local agencies in key in combating the flow of illegal drugs through the state.

Not every coroner across the state has seen an increase in stimulants and deaths around them.

“I’m not seeing any significant increase with stimulants in our deaths,” York County Corner Pam Gay said.

2 Responses

  1. But there hasn’t been a decrease in “opioids”. It has gone up after they have devastated every pain patient in the USA. Local, pin-point reductions in opiate OD doesn’t mean anything. And after what the DEA has done to doctors, I can’t even believe it if they announce they have made a ‘bust’.
    They would say ANYTHING to convince citizens of their vital purpose in the world.
    I think the insane, greedy, pseudo-puritanical, ‘there’s a monster under the bed!!!’, creepy mental masturbators of this world just want to line even more up for their money making, mental health jails, sadistic counselors and profiling/extermination campaigns. This MUST have been what NAZI Germany was like. Well, …that is not going to happen.

  2. This is a “war” that’s been going on since the creation of the “DEA.” It’s a war they will never win. not sure why. Is it because there is too much money involved and lotta hands being greased? Im sure if they wanted to they could stop it.Follow the money I always say.

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