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‘Cutting’ refers to the means by which illicit drugs are diluted.
Drugs can be cut during the production process or afterwards, sometimes with adulterants aimed to appeal to customers rather than solely to dilute. Cutting levels have varied considerably over the last decade with Heroin and Cocaine reportedly normally being around 50% pure (the remaining 50% can be made up from byproducts, degradation and impurities during manufacturing, not just by cutting agents). Some drugs have been reported to contain 0% of the active substance, that they were sold as.
Dealers will ideally look to find cheap, easily acquired substances to use as cutting agents, which will imitate the desired effects or physical characteristics of the drug to be cut. Some of substances used can have serious health effects on the consumer.
Large profits are made by cutting Cocaine to increase its volume. Samples have often been found to contain little or even no Cocaine. A few common cutting agents are listed below.
Benzocaine & Lidocaine – used in UK as a dental anaesthetic and in first aid ointments such as throat sprays and sunburn remedies.
Levamisole – an anti-parasitic dog and cattle wormer. In the US the DEA reported that 70% of all Cocaine analyzed tested positive for Levamisole in 2009, up from 30% in 2008.
Levamisole can damage the immune system and has resulted in several probable cases of agranulocytosis. There have been two fatalities according to the US Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration.
Phenacetine – is an alalgesic (pain killer) withdrawn from the US public in 1983 after it was associated with cancer, kidney damage and even increased risk of death due to renal and cardiovascular diseases.
Procaine – a local anaesthetic.
Tests for Cocaine, Cocaine cuts and Cocaine Purity