Synthetic ‘Pink Cocaine’ Crossing from Argentina Into Uruguay

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Anti-drug officials in Uruguay are warning citizens about the arrival of a new kind of alleged pink cocaine from Argentina, underscoring how the synthetic drugs market in Argentina may be spreading to neighboring countries.

Uruguay’s National Drug Board (La Junta Nacional de Drogas de Uruguay — JND) is alerting citizens about the arrival of a new so-called “pink cocaine” synthetic drug from Argentina that is being detected in the country, Prensa Latina reported.

Authorities in Uruguay say the drug comes in the form of a pink pill or powder. In Argentina, however, the drug is reportedly marketed as cocaine powder to the country’s upper- and middle-class at electronic music parties or through messaging applications like WhatsApp and the dark web, an encrypted and anonymous part of the Internet.

SEE ALSO: Uruguay News and Profile

However, the drug is actually a synthetic drug known as 2C-B, a stimulant and hallucinogenic drug similar to MDMA that first gained popularity in Europe. Earlier this year, authorities in Uruguay seized some of this pink synthetic drug in a carton of the hallucinogenic LSD, according to El Pais.

Authorities in Argentina first detected the drug five or six years ago. They say it was first consumed by networks of thieves from Colombia that frequented electronic music clubs in the Palermo and Costanera neighborhoods of the capital Buenos Aires, Clarín reported.

The drug sells for 2,000 Argentine pesos (around $50) per gram, according to Clarín, which is seven times more expensive than a gram of cocaine, making it one of the most expensive drugs on the market.

Medical professionals in Argentina are unsure why the drug is being marketed as being similar to cocaine. “The consequences of consuming this drug have little to do with cocaine hydrochloride,” according to Sergio Saracco from the Argentine Toxicological Association, Clarín reported.

InSight Crime Analysis

The emergence of synthetic drugs in Argentina and Uruguay follows a regional trend of criminal groups adapting to the growing demand of such drugs. Although Argentina has not been a flashpoint for their consumption, its local drug market is following regional shifting dynamics.  

While Argentina has increasingly become a key transshipment link for South America’s cocaine trade, domestic trafficking, and local consumption have also increased in recent years.

National drug consumption data published by Argentine authorities in 2017 revealed that the estimated number of marijuana and cocaine consumers grew by nearly 150 percent and almost 50 percent, respectively, between 2010 and 2017. The percentage of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 using cocaine and ecstasy also tripled during that time. It’s possible that the presence of the pink synthetic drug 2C-B reflects a shift in the products domestic users are demanding.

SEE ALSO: Argentina News and Profile

However, Colombian traffickers who control the sale of 2C-B at home and in Buenos Aires appear to be stretching the drug by using cutting agents to sell to different social classes after it became a staple for the Argentine capital’s upper- and middle-class. The Colombian non-governmental organization Échele Cabeza told Clarín that the 2C-B being sold is a “fake, adulterated substance” in 95 percent of cases.

“It’s highly probable that Sildenafil [Viagra] is also used in the mixture to increase stimulation, but this also increases heart rate and the risk of heart attack,” according to Échele Cabeza.

The recent warnings from anti-drug officials in Uruguay suggests that dealers may now be increasingly cutting and extending sales of the synthetic drug outside of Argentina and into neighboring countries in response to growing demand.

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