The 1.3 kilograms of cocaine that Kamloops RCMP took off city streets last week was likely destined for middle-class people who use the drug in its less intense powdered version.
The more cocaine is regularly used, the higher the chances are of becoming addicted, said Dr. Reid Webster, TRU assistant professor of psychology.
Powder cocaine is also used recreationally. It’s a stimulant that produces rapid euphoria and gives a feeling of increased mental alertness and reduced hunger and thirst so the user can work longer and harder, he said Thursday.
With prolonged use, the drug can take its toll. Users can suffer heart attacks, strokes and even suffer cocaine psychosis where they become disoriented and experience hallucinations, especially during withdrawal, he said.
“I’ve seen guys who’ve used so much blow their nose is eaten away,” said Webster.
If cocaine availability dries up, addicts might seek out another stimulant such as crystal meth, although some don’t like its effects, he said.
Webster said the addicts he deals with at jail have often switched among cocaine, crystal meth and crack cocaine, which is a more intense drug than the powder version.
Bob Hughes at ASK Wellness said other drug dealers will move quickly to fill the demand for cocaine.
“Soft powdered cocaine is used by the middle class,” although smoking crack cocaine hits the system faster and harder, he said.
It’s also considered more socially acceptable than its intense cousin, he said.
“Some do it for 20 years and have no problem, others start running out of money and run into problems,” he said.
Hughes said the abundance of money flowing from the Alberta oil patch is probably having a direct impact on the use of cocaine in Western Canada.
He was glad to hear police got some firearms off the streets in their investigation, as that means the potential for violence has been reduced.
Whether people’s drug-use habits will change, however, he couldn’t say.
“On the short term, the prices will go up. The risks attached to going and buying it will be higher. And that’s when you find out who has a problem, when they can’t get their supply,” said Hughes.
“The buyers, if arrested, it affects their jobs, their marriages, their lives. The hope is people rethink their use of the substance; that they’re not prepared to take the risks because it’s in the public eye.”
Dr. Rob Baker, a family physician with expertise in addictions, said there are a lot of people who use powder cocaine recreationally, even dropping $1,000 on a weekend to use the drug while partying.
Serious cocaine addicts can easily spend $1,000 a week on their habit, he said.
Addicts tend to want to get their hits as fast as possible, which is why they smoke it. It takes a drug eight seconds to reach the brain if it’s smoked, 15 seconds if it’s injected and 30 seconds if it’s snorted, he said.
It won’t take long for another dealer to get cocaine back on the Kamloops streets, said Baker.
“As long as there are people out there willing to pay good money for it, there are huge profits to be made.”