It came from the Amazon

The Guardian has a curious report about “the latest drug to emerge from South America” which is supposedly “twice as powerful as crack cocaine at just a fraction of the price”. What the journalist doesn’t know, I suspect, is that this is a common form of cocaine paste that is widely known around the region.

The article and video report tackle what is described as “a highly addictive mix of cocaine paste, gasoline, kerosene and quicklime called Oxi” that is supposedly highly hallucinogenic.

However, everything in the description of the drug and its appearance in the video seems to suggest it is just a new name for a widely used form of cheap cocaine paste known by the Spanish names basuco or paco.

For those not aware of how cocaine is produced from the coca leaf, a 1993 Forensic Science Review article (full-text mirrored here) outlined the usual stages of illegal manufacture.

Although ‘Oxi’ is described as including “gasoline, kerosene and quicklime” all of these are standard ingredients in the creation of cocaine paste itself, which itself is an intermediate stage in the production of powder or crack cocaine.

In fact, in the most common production process the subsequent stages just remove the unpleasant solvents, like gasoline and kerosene, from the cocaine paste to produce the purified product.

However, unrefined cocaine paste that still contains these chemicals is widely sold in South America as a cheap but nasty high. Refined cocaine is largely created for export but the paste mainly appears on the local market and is most prevalent in economically deprived areas.

It usually comes as a powder or as crack cocaine-like rocks that can be smoked for a short intense euphoria – which encourages frequent use – and a mid-brain dopamine boosting neurochemical profile that often induces paranoia and paranoid psychosis of exactly the sort described by users in the video.

My guess would be that ‘Oxi’ is just a new name being used to locally market this form of cocaine paste in the Brazilian area of the Amazon region whereas it is sold as basuco in the rest of the Spanish speaking areas.

Link to Guardian report about ‘Oxi’.
Link to mirror for paper on illegal cocaine production.
Link to search of scientific article on basuco (mainly in Spanish).

5 thoughts on “It came from the Amazon”

  1. I noticed this as well. A bit of a news search shows that it isn’t just the Guardian, but the story has been doing the rounds for about five years. Presumably the story started in the South American press.

    I would have liked to think, as I blogged, that the Guardian or some other mainstream press managed to research it just the little bit.

    Good post.

  2. I live in Brazil. This Oxi stuff is just crack prepared with more obnoxious ingredients. And yes, this is more devastating than crack.

  3. “Paco” is very common between poor people in Argentina. Ten years ago, nobody knew anything about this drug, but lately it has changed.
    But not only the poor, but also in the middle class has been growing this drug. A famous singer from a rock band is addict to paco, and everybody knows that, it was in the news a couple of months ago.

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