Sharp rise in purity of cocaine street deals

Sharp rise in purity of cocaine street deals

The purity of street cocaine in Ireland has increased significantly over the last four years

The purity of street cocaine in Ireland has increased significantly over the last four years, figures indicate.

The first official data on drug purity in years shows that the average cocaine content of street deals now stands at almost 47%, compared to 35% a few years ago.

This trend mirrors one that European drug agencies have reported in recent years, accompanying a massive increase in the trafficking of cocaine.

New figures by Forensic Science Ireland (FSI) show:

  • Average cocaine content (official description of purity) of street seizures grew from 34.7% in 2016, to 39% in 2017, to 44.2% in 2018 and to 46.5% in 2019
  • Average cocaine content of importation-size seizures rose sharply between 2016 and 2017 (from 52.2% to 61.8%), dropping to 57% in 2018 and rising slightly to 58.3% in 2019
  • Combining both, the average cocaine content of cocaine went from around 47% in 2016 to 54% in 2017 and around 53% since

 Yvonne Kavanagh, FSI director of chemical analysis, said it has resurrected this work on content after a gap of some years.

“Street level cocaine content is definitely increasing over those four years, in general,” she said. “You can get some outliers, but that’s the trend. From our perspective, there has been a definite increase.” 

She said importation cocaine content fluctuated a bit more year-on-year.

The report also shows that adulterants were also found in samples, with benzocaine the most common (found in 37.8% of samples).

Other adulterants detected include levamisole (found in 22% of samples) and caffeine (8.1%).

The last purity study conducted by FSI  was in 2014.

It showed that the average cocaine content of samples was 15% in 2010, 19% in 2011 and 17% in the first three months of 2012.

The new FSI report also gives average content percentages for heroin. Street deals dropped from around 41% in 2016 to 30% in 2017, up to 38% in 2018 and down to 32% in 2019.

Importation content also fluctuated, within a narrower range, from 43% in 2016, to 39% in 2017, to 45% in 2018 and to 38% in 2019.

Dr Kavanagh said 2020 figures should be due later this year.

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