They search among more than 200 opiates to find the deadly cocaine formula in Argentina | International

The police check the packages of adulterated drugs seized on February 2 at Gate 8, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, after the death of 24 people.
The police check the packages of adulterated drugs seized on February 2 at Gate 8, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, after the death of 24 people.ELIANA OBREGÓN (AFP)

Argentine justice does not find the substance that contaminated the cocaine that last week killed 24 people on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. The experts are looking for among 200 opiates which one was responsible for making the drug lethal, once the first studies were negative for fentanyl, the synthetic that was thought to be behind the deaths. They are facing a blind job, on hundreds of samples. The possibility that it is an unconventional amateur mix, made without control in an illegal “kitchen”, further complicates the work.

The only sure thing a week after the deaths is that the substance consumed by the victims had parts of cocaine. And the presence of a lethal opiate arose from a clinical conclusion: the hundred patients who arrived at hospitals last Wednesday dying responded to naloxone, the antidote used for this type of substance. That is why fentanyl was considered, commonly used in operating rooms as anesthesia, but very expensive and absent in the black market of drug trafficking in Argentina. The complexity of laboratory analysis, however, slows down the identification work.

“We have to analyze a large number of samples without knowing what we are looking for,” says a judicial source familiar with the laboratory work. “What are we looking for? Fentanyl, as the press says? Any other opiates? Or the infinity of poisons that can exist, such as cyanide? The more impure and the more mixture of things the sample has, the more difficult it is to detect. For now, reducing sugars have appeared, but you have to tell the machine what kind of substance to look for and see if it finds it”, he explains.

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Argentina does not have the experience to identify opiates, because it has never had to deal with them. Drug use is dominated by cocaine and marijuana; substances such as heroin are in the minority. “There are no rapid, effective and proven methods developed in Argentina to establish if there is fentanyl; we are in trial and error”, says the source. Although the results are delayed, the Minister of Security of the province of Buenos Aires, Sergio Berni, insisted on Wednesday with the possibility of an error in the preparation of homemade fentanyl. “Opioids are natural, like heroin, or laboratory synthetics. What is natural always has the same formula, but the formula for synthetics can be changed, ”he told local media. “If you do it at home, and you mess up or mistime the reaction time, you can get a fentanyl-like thing that isn’t fentanyl,” he explained.

Knowing the contaminating substance is essential for the criminal investigation. With the appearance of six intoxicated by cocaine in Rosario, 300 kilometers north of Buenos Aires, the possibility of a fight between the drug gangs operating in the west of the Argentine capital was ruled out. Most likely, a “cook” in charge of stretching the doses has made a mistake in the proportions of the mixture. It remains to be seen why he used an opiate, much more expensive and with unpredictable effects. An essay to introduce in the Argentine market the drug that is already wreaking havoc in other markets, such as the United States? It’s possible. This possibility is fed by the profile of the 24 dead and the 84 intoxicated: all very poor, dedicated to selling what they collect in the garbage and willing to pay the equivalent of one euro for a gram of poor quality cocaine.

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The results are undated. The judicial laboratory technicians work on the samples provided by the consumers who survived, but also on the forensic biological samples taken from the dead. “We also need to establish that the toxic substance found, when we find it, is also in the viscera of the victims,” ​​says the judicial source. “If not, we won’t be able to establish cause and effect.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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