Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Does Cocaine Suck Now?

By Manisha Krishnan and Keegan Hamilton VICE

We spoke to cartel members, dealers, and users about why North America’s cocaine seems to be getting worse.

Jessica figured it would be one of those nights where she’d be up until dawn doing lines—but she didn’t expect the experience to be terrifying.

The Toronto-based journalist was sharing a gram of coke with friends at around 11 p.m. one night in March, but within an hour, she said her heart was pounding. She tried to calm down and take deep breaths. Nothing worked. Cocaine can increase your heart rate, but Jessica wasn’t used to how extreme this felt. At 4 a.m., she still couldn’t get it to slow down.

“It started feeling more like a hallucinogen,” said Jessica, who asked to use a pseudonym. “I looked at the ceiling and I just panicked ’cause it felt like the ceiling was caving in on me.”

She felt fine eventually, but the experience left her shaken.

“I felt like I was going to die. Then I decided I was never going to do this again,” Jessica said. While she stopped for a while, she has since started doing coke again.

“I felt like I was going to die. Then I decided I was never going to do this again.”

The problem, for Jessica and other cocaine users across North America, is that quality has become dangerously unpredictable. We spoke to 12 people across the continent—including cartel and wholesaler sources, street users, recent college grads, and wealthy working professionals who have a love/hate relationship with the drug. (Because cocaine is illegal, they spoke on the condition of anonymity.) Although experiences with drugs are subjective, most of the users we spoke to said that purity has taken a nosedive and that gross additives and cutting agents are pervasive.

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