This chemical is used both to soothe baby's teething pain
and increase drug dealer profits.
Since illegal drugs are expensive, drug dealers try to cut or dilute a drug if they can.
Obviously if you cut a drug like cocaine and make it 50% drug and 50% something cheaper, you'll save some money.
You need some kind of "bulking agent."
But if you cut cocaine with something inert, which just mimics what cocaine looks or feels like, a user will think the drug is weak.
That's been done with substances such as baking powder or sugars such as lactose.
So what you want is something to mix with the cocaine that mimics the effects of the cocaine, but is not too expensive.
You can do that with methamphetamine, which gives a user a stimulant effect, but that drug's illegal, and expensive, and maybe gives less than predictable effects.
(And really, you might just as well sell the methamphetamine.)
What you want is a drug that closely mimics cocaine, and is cheap, and is not illegal.
What you want is benzocaine.
Benzocaine is a topical pain reliever that looks and feels like cocaine.
It's a fine chemical, used in products like Baby Orajel and Maximum Strength Orajel.
It mimics the effect of cocaine by numbing a user's nose and mouth in the same way as cocaine, so users are fooled into thinking they're getting a higher quality product - a cocaine that contains, well, more cocaine.
And if a user tries to make crack cocaine out of cocaine adulterated with benzocaine, the fake additive can't be detected.
It's also easier to import because it's legal.
This means that over time, cocaine is becoming less and less pure to the end user, and more and more profitable to the drug dealer.
Some countries such as the UK have made it illegal to buy benzocaine if it's used to supply the underground drug trade.
And since drug dealers won't come out and buy it themselves, they're using middlemen who are marking up the benzocaine, and creating a black market for the cutting agent.
Some have said that the mark-up for the fake cocaine is almost as high as the mark-up for real cocaine.
In one case in the UK, someone was selling cutting agents from his home garage, advertising in local papers and on the Internet.
He was also the Association of Chief Police Officers' specialist on the cocaine industry.
Want to buy some lidocaine? Try going to Cainechemical.com. It looks like the only chemicals they sell are pharmaceutial grades of lidocaine, benzocaine and procaine. Note their disclaimer:
You must be at least 21 years of age to purchase. None of our products are to be used for consumption, diluting or adulterating existing drugs, for any illegal or inappropriate use, or in a way that violates our terms and conditions. All purchasers must also agree to our terms & conditions before purchase.I do like this sentence on their site (I've highlighted my favorite words), because if you're a "research chemist," discretion is so important:
In addition to offering clean, professionally and discreetly packaged, exceptionally pure chemical compounds at highly competitive prices.NOTE: Since I first wrote this post, many people have added their comments to the comments section, and many of these comments are nasty, brutish, ungrammatical and profane. I've debated removing all the comments, but I thought you might be amused to read them to see what happens when anonymous people expound on drug-related matters.
- How cutting drugs became big business, BBC News Magazine>>
- Benzocaine at Wikipedia>>
- Caine Chemical>>