Coca paste is the first crude extraction product of coca leaves from the Coca Plant; it is obtained in the process of extracting Cocaine from these leaves. The leaves are mashed with alkali and kerosene and then sulfuric acid (and sometimes also potassium permanganate). The result is an off-white or light-brown paste containing 40 to 70 percent cocaine, as well as other Alkaloids, benzoic acid, kerosene residue, and sulfuric acid (ElSohly, Brenneisen, & Jones, 1991). Peruvian and Bolivian paste is illegally exported to Ecuador or Colombia, where it is purified into cocaine hydrochloride and then illicitly shipped to markets throughout the world. Although cocaine is the major component of coca paste, the paste is chemically complex, reflecting additives used by the clandestine laboratories performing the extraction from the coca leaves.
Coca paste, also called cocaine paste or pasta, is smoked, primarily in Latin American countries, by mixing about 0.2 ounces (0.5 g) of it with Tobacco (called "tabacazo") or with Marijuana (called "mixto") in a cigarette. When this dab of coca paste is smoked with tobacco, only 6 percent of the cocaine reaches the smoker—but since most the paste samples contain significant amounts of manganese as well as several gasoline residues, the inhaled condensate is an extremely toxic substance. Despite the low bioavailability of cocaine from coca paste when it is smoked, use of this illegal substance by the smoking route reached epidemic proportions in Latin America in the late 1970s. More recently, coca paste smoking has been reported in the Netherlands, the Antilles, Panama, and the United States, although the level of use remains very low.
The effects of coca-paste smoking have been reported to be as toxic as those seen after intravenous or smoked cocaine (i.e., Crack) in the United States. In fact, coca-paste smokers can achieve cocaine blood levels comparable to those seen in users injecting or smoking cocaine (Paly et al., 1980). Smoking the paste leads to an almost immediate euphoric response, and users smoke it repeatedly. As with smoking cocaine (Freebasing), large quantities of the paste are taken repeatedly within a single smoking session, which is terminated only when the drug supply is depleted. Users report a dysphoric response (unease, illness) within about thirty minutes after smoking, so more paste is generally smoked at this time if available.
Substantial toxicity has been reported for chronic use of the coca-paste—tobacco combination, with users smoking it repeatedly, and progressing from stimulant-related effects and euphoria to Hallucinations and paranoid psychoses. In fact, studies carried out in Peru defined a mental disorder of coca-paste smoking, made up of four distinct phases—euphoria, dysphoria, hallucinosis, and paranoid psychosis (Jeri et al., 1980). Since substantial amounts of paste are smoked at one time, the paranoid psychosis seen after chronic stimulant use has also been reported for paste use. As with cocaine abusers, experienced users of coca paste usually turn to criminal activities to support their illicit drug use.
(See also: Bolivia, Drug Use in ; Complications ; Crime and Drugs ; Pharmacokinetics ; Psychomotor Stimulants )
El Sohly, M. A., Brenneisen, R., & Jones, A. B. (1991). Coca paste: Chemical analysis and smoking experiments. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 36, 93-103.
Jeri, F. R., et al. (1980). Further experience with the syndromes produced by coca paste smoking. In F. R. Jeri (Ed.), Cocaine 1980. Lima: Pacific Press.
Paly, D., et al. (1980). Cocaine: Plasma levels after cocaine paste smoking. In F. R. Jeri (Ed.), Cocaine 1980. Lima: Pacific Press.
Van Dyck, C., & Byck, R. (1982). Cocaine. Scientific American, 246, 128-141.
Marian W. Fischman
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