Do you have banknotes in your wallet? Yes? Chances are, there is cocaine on those banknotes.
Gianmarco Troiano and colleagues reviewed nine studies on cocaine contamination of notes. In all nine, researchers found cocaine on the banknotes. Troinano concludes that just about every banknote in circulation has cocaine on it.
How? Well, whereas most of us use banknotes to buy things, some also roll them up to snort cocaine. The technical term for snorting cocaine is insufflation, by the way. This seems to be the most common way of using cocaine.
Cocaine sticks to the banknotes used for snorting. Contaminated notes end up back in general circulation and affect other notes. Counting machines and automated tellers spread the cocaine further.
Are you a crackhead?
The story gets worse (or better, depending on your point of view). Not only is there cocaine in your wallet, there may also be cocaine in your hair.
The hair of a user incorporates cocaine and its metabolites. Hair testing is a way in which law enforcement can determine whether someone is using. Or even whether they used months or years ago. Once the cocaine is in the hair, it stays there.
Hair also attracts environmental cocaine. You know how cigarette smoke gets in your hair? In the same way, smoke from crack will leave cocaine in your hair.
And it’s not easy to get it out again. Rebekah Harrison and Shanlin Fu reviewed methods for testing hair. They report that cocaine was still present after hair had been shampooed ten times.
There seems no end of research on all the places cocaine ends up. Edward Cone and colleagues even found cocaine in the semen of men using cocaine. Participants, described as experienced cocaine users, provided before and after semen samples. One tries not to picture the experiment.
Cut to the chase, sugar man
No doubt you’d like to know how many banknotes it would take to get you high. Well it depends.
I researched this question and ran into a problem. Google, that repository of scientific truth, was vague about the dose. I dipped into a few forums and found that drug users aren’t big on precision — who knew?
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction were more helpful. They give a typical dose as 100-200 milligrams of the product you would buy on the street.
How much of that is actually cocaine? As opposed to sugars and other adulterants? Again, that depends. In Bulgaria, as little as a fifth. In Greece, as much as two thirds.
Gianmarco Troiano and colleagues reckon that 100 nanograms of cocaine per banknote is a lot. Enough that police should take notice. Well, to skim 100 mg off a bunch of these notes, you would need a million banknotes.
Since cocaine can be had for as little as EUR 50 per gram, it makes more sense to buy it. Not that any of you were planning on it.
Marco Verch on Flikr.