How Safe Are Your Illegal Drugs? 

How Safe Are Your Illegal Drugs? 
Posted by FoM on October 18, 2001 at 07:49:27 PT
By Jackie Cohen 
Source: Wired Magazine
Put this in your pipe and smoke it at your own risk: Terrorists could poison drug supplies and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration probably can't do anything about it. Politicos have warned that dirt-cheap, high-potency heroin will soon flood world markets and cause an epidemic of overdoses in the wake of the Taliban evacuating opium supplies before the first bombs hit Afghani soil. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. 
Because the drugs are illegal, health officials are not authorized to monitor the purity of such substances -- not just heroin, but marijuana and ecstasy and other illicit drugs. This coming at a time when authorities are on high alert against bio and chemical attacks. "We can't stop all the drugs from coming into the country," said Drug Enforcement Agency spokesman Will Glaspy. "Drugs are poisons in the first place. You don't know what you're putting into your body - that's why people die from this stuff." Clearly, the war on drugs hasn't been effective. Making matters harder for the DEA is that a chunk of its personnel has been transferred to the Federal Aviation Administration since Sept. 11. "The DEA wouldn't do anything about poisoned drugs unless a public health agency beat them over the head with it. And if they actually acted, they would do it in a slow way," said Alan St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), in Washington D.C. "If pot was legal, it could be monitored and regulated like all of the other things the government protects. The first time someone opened up a package of marijuana and they found it was not what they purchased and that it was harmful, they would have a slam-dunk tort case. But there's no liability in the drug trade if it's illegal." How likely is it that people could lethally poison marijuana and other controlled substances? Most experts agree that users of illegal drugs might not have the appeal of more visible targets like media and government. And killing addicts could be tantamount to cutting off funding for terrorist activities -- as Afghanistan is responsible for as much as 75 percent of the world's heroin, according to reports. But drug poisoning isn't entirely out of the question, at least among some of the copycat pranksters that have come out of the woodwork since the Sept. 11 attacks. Toxicologists point out numerous paths of destruction, and historical precedents. The simplest may be contaminating pot with fungi like Aspergillosis, which is still toxic when smoked. Healthy people can inhale the spores and not get sick, but medical marijuana users can contract skin disorders, pneumonia and other pulmonary infections, some of them fatal. About 10 such cases were reported in San Francisco last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More lethal yet more complicated to engineer is botulism, which strikes an average of 110 Americans a year, causing respiratory and nervous system paralysis. While best known as a food-borne germ, the contaminant has appeared in heroin with deadly outcomes. But this toxin could be cultivated in pot, said John Morgan, professor of pharmacology at City University of New York. Large quantities of marijuana are often transported in bricks pressed tightly with a bit of fruit juice for extra stickiness, wrapped up to hide the smell - the kind of anaerobic environment that Clostridium botulinum thrive in. The spores could also survive smoking, and have withstood the cooking process used to prepare heroin injections. The Prohibition days hold an example that toxicologists like to point to as "what happens when you make intoxicants illegal," Morgan said. Distillers would reformulate alcohol into "medicinal tonics" in order to continue selling them commercially. This typically meant that more solids had to be added to the drinks to pass muster with the Food and Drug Administration. In 1930 one entrepreneur added triorthocresylphosphate (TOCP) to an elixir called Jamaican Ginger, and inadvertently paralyzed about 100,000 people. Since then, there have been only two incidents of TOCP poisoning, when people mistook the substance for cooking oil. Today it's used in airplane hydrolics, paints and glues - although Morgan speculates that the flame-resistant oil could conceivably be used to poison marijuana. The U.S. government itself poisoned marijuana smokers during the Carter administration. Mexican fields were sprayed with paraquat, which requires 24 hours of sunlight to kill the plants. The growers quickly harvested the crops, cleaned them off and shipped them into the United States, where they caused extensive respiratory damage on unwitting smokers. While the paraquat incident received a lot of publicity, that's usually the exception, as poisoned drugs barely register on forensic scientists' radar screens. "People might die of another cause, but if they had an illegal drug in their system at the time of death, then it simply gets reported as a drug death," says Alan Clear, director of the Harm Reduction Coalition, a national network of drug treatment organizations based in New York. Considering the sheer numbers of overdoses, it would take a huge spike in activity for anyone to notice something fishy. There were nearly 300,000 such incidents during the first half of 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. With authorities not paying attention, consumers have to be vigilant - but they have very little other recourse in the way of testing for impurities, thanks to DEA regulations. DanceSafe is essentially the only option: The nonprofit offers kits to test ecstasy's potency. The group also publishes data on the presence of other intoxicants in the pills, but doesn't check for any poisons or impurities. Other options are limited and likely beyond the means of the typical drug user. "A good laboratory can test for almost anything - but you need to tell them what substances to look for first, and it would probably cost about $150 a pop," said Morgan, of CUNY. "Maybe the government might choose to test something if they heard it was contaminated, but they'd rather try to get rid of it altogether," which they haven't been very successful at. Perhaps the good news is that "the increased emphasis on security is making it more problematic for smugglers to get into the country. They see all of the additional security checks at airports and harbors and think twice," said Jim McDonough, Drug Czar of Florida, the entry point for about 40 percent of the cocaine, 30 percent of the ecstasy and 23 percent of the heroin traffic coming into the United States. In recent weeks, his office has seen a marked decline in such activity. However, these measures aren't likely putting much of a dent in marijuana traffic. Half of the cannabis consumed in the United States is grown domestically, with another 40 percent coming from Mexico and Canada. Salvation could lie in the sheer numbers of dealers, each of them diluting their stashes before passing them on. But then a well-planned attack could introduce a more concentrated poison at the wholesale level, assuring that a sufficiently lethal does makes it to all who partake. Let the smoker beware. Source: Wired Magazine (CA) Author: Jackie Cohen Published: October 18, 2001Copyright: 2001 Wired Digital Inc.Website: newsfeedback wired.comRelated Articles & Web Sites:NORML Reduction Coalition Could Be Put To Better Use Drugs Could Be Laced with Anthrax
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Comment #15 posted by dddd on October 20, 2001 at 09:04:40 PT
..Paraquat was not a hoax...back in those days,out here on the west coast,I had a good friend,whos' big brother was a chemistry professor...We brought him several different samples of this brown,and very harsh weed that was going around,and he concluded that it definitly had traces of the herbacide, was not a hoax..dddd
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Comment #14 posted by lookinside on October 20, 2001 at 08:38:57 PT:
i'm betting the times didn't give that front page coverage the next day...extraordinary...
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Comment #13 posted by kaptinemo on October 19, 2001 at 05:44:51 PT:
Richard, I am not surprised at all.
That a 'journalist' who deigns to write knowlewdgeably about US drug policy would be shockingly ignorant of the paraquat episode only goes to show that the wrong people are writing these articles. At the risk of seeming self-aggrandizing, any one of the regular commentators here at CNews could do a far superior job of it.Ah, but we're 'partisans' as one government wonk put it; we can't be trusted to provide a 'balanced' account of the DrugWar's predations. Especially as we are on the receiving end of them; it's hard to remain objective with Officer Boot putting his hobnailled, taxpayer-purchased footgear on your collective throat, stealing your goods, your freedom, ruining your family, and even taking your life without a single shred of due process in evidence. When I see articles by people like Ms. Cohen, I am reminded of a famous saying by John Swinton, former Chief of Staff for the New York Times. Called by his peers the Dean of his profession. He was asked to give a toast before the New York Press Club in 1953 and spoke his mind. He enraged a great many of his fellow members of his profession when he said the following:"There is no such thing, at this date of the worlds history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar weekly salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another hob. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty four hours my occupation would be gone. The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press? We are tools and the vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities, and our lives are the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes"It doesn't get any clearer than that.
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Comment #12 posted by xxdr_zombiexx on October 19, 2001 at 04:55:45 PT
I think it has probably been the "quest for the Holy Grail" amongst the DEA, The Fedreal Governmant, and groveling prohibitioints to find a way to kill large numbers of pot smokers.They would prefer to shoot them to death one by one, becuase that would allow more efficient processing of forfeitures. Mass murder would be quick, but a lot of dead smoker's families would get thier property.I imagine they actually have immense but quiet admiration for the Terrorists and the Taliban becuae those groups are free to act as they wish. I'm sure the DEA stands around whining about our Constitutional protections from their zealotry.We might as well always add "TH" to the end of DEA every time we write it.DEATH
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Comment #11 posted by lookinside on October 18, 2001 at 21:46:53 PT:
hmmm...i'm surprised...
some genius in the DEA hasn't had the bright idea to ENCOURAGE the poisoning of illicit drugs...remove the consumers and the funding for the terrorists with one rock...i'm sure the possibility of poisoning these substances will get LOTS of press...(in hopes that someone tries it...)
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Comment #10 posted by freedom fighter on October 18, 2001 at 16:29:59 PT
2-4D herbicide
another chemical used to kill the smokers... The chemical was applied by our Government before the paraquat.. Norml and Keith Stroup sued the government and sucessfully stopped the paraquat thing. Did a search on yahoo, there are 13,000 references to word paraquat and 132 references to paraquat lawsuitsAt least, DEA admitted this, "We can't stop all the drugs from coming into the country," said Drug Enforcement Agency spokesman Will Glaspy. "Drugs are poisons in the first place. You don't know what you're putting into your body - that's why people die from this stuff." SUE the government while we still can now. For one thing, clean cannabis is not a poison. Never have met one keel over after smoking fine herb, have anybody? Reform DEA to be a DPEA(Drug Purity Enforcement Agency) for public health and safety's sake!Saw one of the "expert" on Bio-warfare on one of the endless programs about terror. He stated that it takes specialized knowledge and equipment to whip up Anthrax. So do you think those terrorists who crashed NYC had time to learn this shit?What's more, it is also LEGAL to whip up your own batch of Anthrax in your basement! All you have to do is say you are a researcher! Just be sure you do'nt got joints in the ashtray. Yeah, I smell DEA_FBI_CIA rat turd!So, Dan, you smelled genocide? Does any Sane American the Patriot want it in his/her own backyard? "There were nearly 300,000 such incidents during the first half of 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services"How many more so far?? I saw a sign by the bar that served deadly whiskey and beer, said, "NO MERCY". 3 millions? 15 millions? 50 millions? 125 millions? human beings? How many more bodies before we finally say it is time to reform the
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Comment #9 posted by leefmyner on October 18, 2001 at 16:01:38 PT:
topic irrelevant, fearmongering politicians
The idea that illegal drugs would be poisoned is rubbish. Very, very unlikely. For reasons stated in the article (it would be killing customers), because the terrorists already consider drugs to be harmful, and because of the sheer abundance of other targets: food, mail, textiles, pharmaceuticals, even furniture. Drugs are the last thing they would spike.
Who first publicly suggested that drugs could be used as bioweapon vehicles in the first place? The same people responsible for the drug war.
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Comment #8 posted by Cannabis Dave on October 18, 2001 at 15:47:27 PT
Not bloody likely!
These people who sell drugs don't f#ck around, and when there is that much money at stake people don't want their product to have a bad reputation. Unless it was a very slow acting agent they didn't notice it wouldn't work for that reason - it would never be allowed by those in the drug trade. Nobody cares about drug users anyway - they are just a small unpopular minority of the population, so attacking them would be pointless. I remember when my junkie friend tried to convince me the AIDS virus was coming from the heroin supply, that was back in the late 1970's when nobody really knew what it was yet - it scared him off heroin. People using hard drugs don't care very much about their health usually, and the "authorities" sure aren't going to care about it, so they would be a very vulnerable population, but there just isn't any reason for terrorists to target a small unpopular minority group like that. Cannabis has been contaminated with paraquat in the past (courtesy of our government), and it's still occasionally contaminated if it's imported pot. They are still spraying herbecides on fields in Columbia etc. The DEA targets poppies, coca, AND marijuana (even hemp - lol!) - I'd be more worried about that then terrorists. The "tar" heroin that comes from Latin America is full of impurities anyway, and the cocaine is usually highly adultered too - it's what they "cut" it with that I'd be more worried about. It's best to stick with domestically grown cannabis in my humble opinion - that's what I do. I was an addict most of my life previously, but now I'm just a medical marijuana patient who is getting healthier all the time thanks to cannabis - praise God!
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Comment #7 posted by Richard Lake on October 18, 2001 at 15:01:36 PT:
I told Jackie that this was b.s.
Sunday Jackie Cohen interviewed me for this story.I told her that must U.S. heroin did not come from Asia and that the production in Asia mostly went to Europe.I told her that it was very unlikely that drug lords, even those who are terrorists, would do anything to hurt the folks who buy their products. Nor would they do anything to scare future potential customers.She then suggested that terrorists could do something to the drugs on their way to market. I responded that it was unlikely that they would even get access to drugs on their way to market to do anything.Instead I told her that most drug users have a greater fear of their own government trying to do something to the drug supply. She acted shocked. I then told her about paraquat - about which she knew nothing.At least she got something about that in.I could tell she was out to write a scare story even if she had to spin the facts. I could tell she knew I thought her story was overblown - to say the least.I wish I had know she would write this line: "Terrorists could poison drug supplies and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration probably can't do anything about it."I could have told her that with a stroke of a pen the DEA could move these drugs into the over the counter class where at least we could hope the supply was safe - and the profits would go to the regulated market.I suppose I could have told her that what I wanted was "Free Legal Backyard Marijuana - Let It Grow" but I knew better than that. Working with freelance journalists requires that you try to move them from where they are carefully towards where you would like them to be. The wrong words and you scare them off.Richardp.s. The story only appeared on the Wired website. It has not, and probably will not be, published in the magazine.
The Media Awareness Project
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Comment #6 posted by Dan B on October 18, 2001 at 14:37:32 PT
Did you catch the whole statement?
And killing addicts could be tantamount to cutting off funding for terrorist activities -- as Afghanistan is responsible for as much as 75 percent of the world's heroin, according to reports. 
Here it is--the justification for genocide, plain and simple: "killing addicts could be tantamount to cutting off funding for terrorist activities." Well, yippidy-do. The next step is to propagate this message all over the country, whip all the puritans into a feeding frenzy, and start the genocide machine a-rollin'. We said it would come to this. And what better way to commit mass genocide than to do it covertly, under the guise of a terrorist strike at drug users? I smell a rat as big as the CIA all over this statement.Dan B
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Comment #5 posted by Lehder on October 18, 2001 at 09:50:47 PT
a very bad reputation
yes, only the government has been known to poison drugs on a massive scale: paraquatonly the government compels people to take dangerous drugs: ritalin, thorazine, and surreptitiously administered LSD (dangerous only by the secret means of delivery and the massive doses), and the spraying of people with roundup.only the government has willfully witheld good medicines from those who desperately needed treatments: the syphilis experiments on black who is sending out anthrax spores? i would not be surprised if were an amateur ollie north, mixing up poisons in the basement of the white house to keep public opinion hospitable to the's a tip for the g: the best thing you can do right now to dispel crazy rumors about the source of anthrax and to give the stock market and your tax revenues a boost is to find the culprits. quick.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on October 18, 2001 at 09:34:43 PT
My Feelings
If I did white powders I would be concerned. Homegrown American Marijuana will be fine I think but any from outside the country, you couldn't be sure. Public health officials don't care about how drugs would affect a user. They have never cared. Years ago remember how they used Paraquat? I do.
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Comment #3 posted by Doug on October 18, 2001 at 09:22:52 PT
Poisoned Drugs are Nothing New
Drugs, especially refined drugs or those in a pill, have been adulterated with toxic substances for years and years. Heroin and cocaine have long been cut with who knows what. There have been reports of cement powder being added to some. Last year there was a flurry of deaths in the British Isles because of some spoor added to the heroin. It goes on and on. In fact, it is normal for drugs such as heroin to have non-drug, possibly toxic, substances added to them.Marijuana is probably one of the least likely to be adulterated, since it is a plant that requires very little processing. In fact, it grows like a weed! However, I have heard reports from people who buy small quantities on the street -- never a good idea - that things like rat turds have been found in grass.Nevertheless, this whole discussion ilustrates that for the most part public health cares very little about drug users -- since that are engaged in an illegal activity that get what they deserve. This is a terribly unhumane attitude, which unfortunately I don't see changing any time soon.
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Comment #2 posted by Robbie on October 18, 2001 at 08:21:13 PT
The ONLY people who would consider poisoning the drug supply would be prohibitionists. Let's get real, if terrorists want "the Great Satan" to suffer, why would they make martyrs out of drug users?Makes as much sense as claiming that 11% of drugs were stopped by the DEA and that more money will eventually solve the problem.
Check out Sam Smith's editorial
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Comment #1 posted by greenfox on October 18, 2001 at 08:20:07 PT
Who's reports?
"as Afghanistan is responsible for as much as 75 percent of the world's heroin, according to reports."Ok, first off, who put out these "reports"? Secondly, this is total bullshit and I will tell you why. MOST of the herion comes from South America, Thailand, and yes- China. Only a VERY SMALL percentage comes from "the Taliban". Next we have the issue of poisoning wells, as Pendell would put it. Marijuana, a substance when in its unaltered form has no lethal dose, is the target of these "drug debates". If anything were to be spiked, it probably WOULD be grass considering it's the most used illicit substance AND it needs to be inhaled or eaten, (usually the former,) before its euphoric effects are felt. And, as far as all this Anthrax nonsense going around, I can't see how it would be difficult to infect marijuana users if anthrax were present in the bud. HOWEVER I don't think that we are going to see "spiked pot". This closely reminds me of the pariquet (I know I spelled that wrong) pot of the 80's. THAT turned out to be a hoax. A scare tactic, if you will. There never was any poisoned pot. In the same breath, let me say this: even if there WAS poison pot, (which I don't believe there is or will be, save for maybe by the hands of psudo-terrorists and copycats,) a marijuana smoker can still easily avoid the risks of anthrax-laced bud. How, you inquire? Simple. :) (you saw this one comming):
Oh well... sly in green, foxy in kind..
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