What is happening around us. These are news pieces from the local scene related to the Maltese island and cocaine use, these are meant to show a fragment of the current cocaine situation in our country. The following are just a few stories that made it to the media, but the problem is, by far bigger than what we can imagine. These are just a couple of stories from the year 2010. Maltese alleged cocaine dealer arrested in Brazil. A Maltese businessman and his girlfriend have been arrested in Brazil after allegedly being caught packing cocaine into air-conditioning units to be exported to the UK.

A Brazilian police spokesman told the press that this was a joint operation between the DEA and Brazilian Federal Police. The businessman and his partner are believed to be leaders in a drug smuggling ring between Brazil, Europe and then Malta. (Kurt Sansone, Kurt Bugeja Coster Times of Malta Saturday, 26th June 2010) Albania seizes drugs, which transited through Malta. A container truck carrying rice from Santa Cruz, Bolivia was being investigated for more than a month this truck passed from Malta and head to Albania which at the port of Durres the Albanian police seized 8kg of cocaine from this container truck.

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This was the biggest drug bust recorded in Albania valued at around €500,000. The Dutch, Maltese and Albanian police carried out this sting. (Times of Malta Wednesday, 3rd November 2010) http://www. timesofmalta. com/articles/view/20101103/local/albania-seizes-drugs-which-transited-through-malta Introduction use and abuse of Cocaine Cocaine is a stimulant, which is addictive and powerful. Cocaine is known for its effects on brain. During the 80’s and 90’s cocaine was at the peak of its popularity cause of its extensive use and media exposure, in our country was known as the rich men’s drug.

Cocaine is one of the oldest psychoactive substance known to men the earliest documented use of some form of cocaine was around 500 A. D. In South America coca leaves have been chewed for centuries to combat fatigue and hunger (Mind-Altering Drugs: Cocaine, 2000, 2). Cocaine hydrochloride is the purified chemical that is extracted from coca plant and has been abused for over 100 years, for example in the early 1900s a variety of elixirs and tonics that treated various illnesses contained purified cocaine.

During the 19th century Pope Leo XIII was known to have used cocaine and advertised it on a poster, in fact the manufacturer of the tonic was awarded a gold medal. The pope also mentioned that he carried the tonic in a personal hipflask to get strength in moments when prayers where insufficient. (The Independent 2 March 2006) Coca Eryth­roxylum bush grew primarily in South American countries such as Bolivia and Peru, originally pure cocaine was extracted from its leaves. An effort to reduce crops in Peru and Bolivia during the 1990’s led to the rise of the Columbian nation, which became the largest cultivated coca crop. NIDA) Nowadays cocaine is considered to be a schedule II drug, that means that it can be legitimately administered by medical practitioner solely for medical purpose like, local anaesthesia for some ear, eye and throat surgeries, but on the other-hand there is a high potential for abuse. (NIDA) Generally street dealers sell cocaine in the form of white fine crystalline powder. Cocaine has been called a various street names such as “coke” “Charlie” ” flake” “her” “snow” and other names; these names can vary from country to country.

On the streets cocaine is known to be mixed with all sorts of substances such as, talcum powder, cornstarch, sugar, paracetamol tablets just to increase the weight and profit. Street dealers also mix it with other active drugs, like procaine (a chemically related local anaesthetic) or amphetamine (stimulant known as speed). (NIDA) Throughout the years users found ways of altering the effects and feel of cocaine by combining other drugs with cocaine, some of these combinations included, cocaine and heroin called “speedball. Abused cocaine can be found in two chemical forms: hydrochloride salt water-soluble and water-insoluble cocaine base (freebase). (NIDA) Hydrochloride salt or powder form is usually snorted or injected freebase is mixed with ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and water then heated to remove the hydrochloride which then produce a smokable substance, street name for freebase cocaine is also known as “crack” the term is derived from the crackling sound that is made when the mixture is heated and smoked. (NIDA)

Cocaine multiple routes of administration could produce various adverse effects for example snorting regularly could lead to nosebleeds and problems with swallowing just to mention a few. (NIDA) Cocaine is an expensive way of getting high to the extent of sometimes even being called the “caviar of street drugs”. Cocaine has a highly powerful negative effect on the brain, heart, and emotions. Many users tend to become addicts with long-term consequences which sometimes are life threatening. Even casual users are at risk of sudden death from the use of cocaine. http://www. webmd. com/mental-health/cocaine-use-and-its-effects) Health and psychological effects of cocaine. Short-term effects of cocaine can be visible immediately after a single dose, which can disappear in a couple of minutes to up to an hour. In small doses cocaine will make the user energetic, euphoric, talkative the user will also experience heightened vision, touch and auditory senses and a high level of alertness. Some users will not feel the urge for food. Other users also reported that under the influence of cocaine they could perform certain tasks better.

Research done by NIDA found out a potential danger of drug related death when mixing alcohol with cocaine. (NIDA) Long-term use of cocaine can lead to addiction. Cocaine is a very addictive drug, which its users cannot predict or control to what extent and periods he or she will make use of the drug. When a user becomes an addict and stops taking the drug for long periods of time can easily relapse. Studies revealed that an addict’s cocaine related cues and memories of experiences and exposures could trigger cravings, which will make the user relapse during abstinence.

When a user is repeatedly exposing itself to cocaine adaptation and tolerance may develop which means that more cocaine is needed to reach initially experienced highs. (NIDA) Studies done by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDD) show that the United Kingdom has the highest use of cocaine in Europe. (BBC news 10th Nov 2010. http://www. bbc. co. uk/news/uk-11727692) (EMCDD) studies also shows that the use of cocaine have increased so has the drugs being seized. In the last decade cocaine became the second most used illegal drug after cannabis in Europe.

Levels of use differ largely between countries. Cocaine use is concentrated in western and southern European countries. Among cocaine users there is a considerable diversity in both socio-demographical and use patterns. There are occasional cocaine users, socially integrated regular users and more marginalized and often dependent users, including current and former opioid users. This diversity complicates the assessment of the prevalence of the drug’s use, its health and social consequences and the necessary responses. (EMCDD) (http://www. emcdda. europa. u/online/annual-report/2010/cocaine/1) published 10th Nov 2010.

Cocaine trafficking and social implications Exchanging commercially illicit drugs and drug asscoiated parafenelia or producing equipment is considered as drug trafficking. Efforts are continuosly made to stop or deter drug traffickin but research condcted by the UNODC discovered that only 30 percent of the cocaine produced is captured. UNODC report of 2008, established that cocaine is the most trafficked drug in the whole world after marjuana. In 2008 the report by the United Nations office for drug control and crime prevention stated that 45 ercent of the global drug trade is seized in South America, 24 percent in North America and 17 percent in Europe (UNODC,2008). This study of 2008 also showed the in the past two decades the number of seized drugs and related equipment increased. Another report called National Drug Threat Assessment carried out in 2010 by the U. S. Department of Justice National Drug Intelligence Center mentioned that since 2007 a shortage of cocaine persisted in the U. S. markets due to the diminished productivity in the Colombian region and the increase in demand around the globe with Europe at the top of the charts for cocaine use.

But these weren’t the only factors that affected the cocaine supply, seizures and enhanced counterdrug efforts done in 2009 by the GOM were another major factor. These efforts contributed to the diminished quantities delivered from Columbian soil in the U. S. via the Mexican border. This report also emphasized the fact that throughout 2007 and 2008 drug use remained constant and that over 25 million people from the tender age of 12 to older reported using a type of illicit substance or drug, these included (CPD’s) or controlled prescription drugs used under non medical circumstances.

Every year deaths related to drug abuse reach the thousands and emergency admission to the ER reaches the millions this leads to an effect on society, there are other impacts of drug use i. e. on the criminal justice system resulting from the production of illegal drugs and again society resulting from loss of productivity due to drug abuse all this summed up topped an estimated $215 billion annually. (WDR, 2010)

The NDIC report of 2010 also mentioned that investigators from the drug Enforcement Agency or (DEA) found out that cocaine was being cut with a substance known as Levamisole an agent normally used to deworm livestock, the report mentioned that the amount of levamisole in the wholesale-level cocaine was increased from that of 10 percent in 2008 to 71 percent in 2009, this also added increased the risks of death with cocaine abuse.

In 2010 the World Drug Report (WDR) conducted by the UNODC suggested the highest concentration of cocaine use was in six European countries these included Ireland, which had an increase in cocaine treatment cases from 2002. According the 2010 United Nations report Malta has the second highest cocaine deaths from the 22 European countries with 37. 8 percent behind the 60 percent of Spain which is one of the main entry points for cocaine, this report showed that the total deaths related to cocaine were 635 between 22 European countries in 2008. UNODC, 2010) Legal aspect In Malta we have Cap 101 Dangerous Drug Ordinance (DDO), which deals with drug related issues. This ordinance covers drug laws in Malta. In the DDO there are a multitude of substances considered to be illegal in Malta. The types of drugs vary from raw and prepared opium, coca leaves, cocaine, and morphine, Indian hemp etc. It also covers the punishment aspect for possession, manufacturing, cultivating, importation, selling, preparing, distributing and all the materials, equipment used for the production of the drugs.

A list of the drugs covered can be found in the form of a schedule in the first part of the ordinance and cocaine is found under part IV of the schedule. The punishment for drug offences in the Criminal Court is for selling and dealing, if the verdict is unanimous, 4 years to 10 years and up to 30 years depending on the age and social circumstances of the offender and a fine between €2,329. 37 and €116,468. 67. Possession in the Criminal Court can lead to a 12 month sentence up to 10 years and a fine from €465. 7 to €23,293. 73 but if the same offences are under the Magistrate Court carry a different punishment. Selling and dealing the offender faces, from 6 months to 10 years and a fine from €465. 87 to €11,646. 87. If the charge is possession the punishment is from 3 months up to 12 months and a fine of €465. 87 up to €2,329. 37. Possession charges can also get probation or suspended sentence. The Magistrate Court deals with trafficking and the punishment is life imprisonment and confiscation of property.

The attorney general decides prior the proceeding whether if an offender is to be trialed in the Criminal Courts or the Magistrate courts. If any of the offences related with dealing is done with-in a 100 meter of a school, or any center that houses youths or to a pregnant woman, a person in rehab or a minor the punishment goes up a scale. In some cases court may order treatment to the individuals involved. (Scicluna, 2010 lecture notes) Prevention and rehabilitation In our country the main government agency, Sedqa with the help of NGOs such as Oasi and Caritas has been establishing a number of prevention programs hich address certain community groups, like school children, parents, peers these programs also meant for workplaces and whole communities. School based programs, start from primary school and continue at secondary level. At primary school level the universal aspect of prevention is focused on peer influences and friendships, with an introduction to the possible problems caused by alcohol and tobacco use. In secondary school the lessons introduced at primary level are enforced and emphasized and problems related to drug abuse are introduced aiming to prevent the use of harmful substances.

Universal family based programs are conducted in an interactive environment these target topics related to parenthood such as leadership skills and styles, communication, child development other topics covered are alcohol and drug abuse. Community based program is mainly aimed at youth and families in different environments, such as religious societies, youth clubs, political and social clubs etc. (EMCDD) Workplace programs are aimed to create substance abuse awareness amongst employees these programs also tackle the social and personal implications that come with drug use and abuse. EMCDD) Rehabilitation programs Drug treatment in Malta is delivered by Sedqa, the National Drugs Agency, the Substance Abuse Therapeutic Unit, The Dual diagnosis Unit and the Corradino Correctional Facility. These are funded by the government whilst Caritas and Oasi which are partially funded also provide treatment. Treatment is provided differently being that of outpatient community services, rehabilitation residential programmes, detoxification treatment and substitution maintenance treatment.

Outpatient treatment offer social work, counseling, group therapy and psychological intervention to persons with drug problem. Caritas provide a two year rehabilitation programme whilst Sedqa an eighteen month program. Programme offer holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to therapy in a communal living environment and aim to guide clients towards abstinence. (EMCDD, 2010) In Spain another treatment which has shown positive results, but is very expensive is the Contingency Management (CM) which aims is reduce the reinforcing effect of the drugs.

CM is introduced in the beginning of the treatment with psychosocial support and the incentives are contingent on the production of drug free samples of urine. The incentive would be monetary vouchers which will increase with each successive period of abstinence. Failure to stay drug free results in the loss of accumulated gains. This technique will provide an incentive for the drug free behaviour of the client and provide a goal to be achieved. Evidence has shown that this type is effective from drugs coming from cocaine. ttp://www. psicothema. com/pdf/3858. pdf. Conclusion In the world many wars have been, and are still being fought, but at some point they come to an end. One of these wars is the drug war, which has been going on for longer than any war we know about. This is a silent but deadly war, which have caused a lot of harm and left many casualties behind. With resilience, will power and a lot of help from governments and people around us, we might be able to reduce the damage or win the war.