When you think of cocaine, you probably think of its illegality, the headlines of celebrities getting busted with it, the expense, and maybe the 1980’s. But there is another cost and one that’s impossible to truly measure: the human wreckage it leaves not just for addicts, but to those, willingly or not, swept up in the drug trade. As a rule, those trafficking illegal substances tend not to care about the environment, the economy, and human lives. Trafficking is a continuous threat, and the cocaine trade has done significant damage in the areas it is produced.
Environmental Effects Due to Drug Trafficking
According to César A. Ipenza Peralta, an advisor to Peru's Ministry of the Environment, "Drug trafficking has one of the greatest impacts on the Amazon, leading to severe deforestation of tropical forests and contamination of the watershed."
With drug kingpins' number one priority being money, whether they are personally concerned about the impact of the cocaine trade on the environment doesn't make much of a difference when looking at the big picture. Until the cocaine refining process comes to a halt completely, the environment will continue to be damaged by the cocaine trade, and the economy and our lives will continue to be impacted.
There are three stages in the cocaine refining process, and the chemicals used to perfect the drug into saleable condition during these stages can produce, on average, more than two metric tons of waste per coca hectare, leading to devastating effects on soil, biodiversity, and hydrology. Not only do coca farmers rely on toxic pesticides to clear land and make room for the drug, resulting in soil destruction, but often, processed coca leaves are dumped near streams, and this can have a serious impact on the plants and animals in the water. Once the toxic chemicals of coca leaves seep into the water, they can decay into a serious source of pollution that can negatively impact a waterway for miles. It is likely those involved in the cocaine trade may not ever consider the impact the drug has on the environment and thus on the economy and human lives.
Deforestation, Pollution, Loss of Animal and Aquatic Resources
The environmental concerns resulting from drug trafficking are widespread. Fish dying doesn't just mean we lose a pretty species and our biodiversity suffers. These losses mean a loss of aquatic resources, which in turn impacts the economy and our diets. Likewise, the deforestation to which the cocaine trade continues to contribute does not just mean we will lose trees and might have to ration our paper use. Deforestation results in lost oxygen, adding more pollution to our environment and thus negatively impacting our health. Further, as forests disappear, so does carbon, and a lack of carbon can contribute to unexpected climate change. It is clear the cocaine trade can have a serious impact on our ecosystem. With animals becoming extinct and soil affected, even crop production suffers. We will suffer, too, as recession hits and there is a lack of food to eat.
Unfortunately, the damage done by the cocaine trade is difficult to address. Drug traffickers are criminals with serious wealth and power, and it may be safe to say they simply do not care. Their goal is to make money, and with drugs making them that money, that may be all that matters. Quality of life and even the proper treatment of humans don't even seem to be issues. Prostitutes are often supplied to employees of cocaine plantations in an effort to keep them working there longer. Of course, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases is rapid, resulting in many sicknesses and wounds. Of course, the workers rely so heavily on the sexual satisfaction they receive that anything less they would be unable to handle. It is a sad cycle of survival.
Levamisole Added to Cocaine
Since 2007, levamisole has been added to cocaine. While this pharmaceutical agent's regular purpose is to deworm livestock, it is believed Columbian traffickers have been adding it to the drug during the production process in order to enhance cocaine's effects and thus sell more of it, benefitting the cocaine trade. Issues like this prove the damage done by the cocaine trade can sometimes be irreversible. Levamisole is a dangerous contaminant that can result in conditions like agranulocytosis, a fatal blood disorder, and there have already been 20 confirmed cases, two cocaine-related levamisole deaths, and a nationwide public alert issued on the pharmaceutical's dangerous effects.
With drug use and abuse extremely prevalent in our society, it is important to understand the impact the cocaine trade is having on our environment, economy, and health, just to name a few areas of concern. Although damage continues to be done, you can help the future impact of the cocaine trade by saying no to drugs and telling your peers to say no, too. If someone you love is suffering from addiction, let them know they can call 1-800-928-9139 toll-free to talk to a hotline advisor to help them get treatment.