Could cocaine vapes be a smart new way to crack an old addiction problem?

It may have originated as a convenient alternative means of administering nicotine, avoiding most of the dangers of smoking, but vaping technology has many other potential uses – most notably for the delivery of other kinds of drug.

It’s been employed for a while now as another way of using cannabis and cannabis derivatives, legally or illegally. The argument for making cannabis legal and regulated was demonstrated vividly by the 2019 EVALI crisis, which revealed just how dangerous it can be when mixed with inappropriate dilutants.

While moves are afoot now in several parts of the world to legalise or decriminalise cannabis use, the logical argument for doing so – that legal, regulated stuff is a lot safer than stuff made and distributed criminally – could be applied equally well to pretty much any kind of recreational drug. At the same time, there is a growing acceptance of the need to use legitimate, clean drugs to help addicts off the bad stuff.

So how about clean, well regulated and administered vapes to deliver appropriately judged doses of crack cocaine, say?

“It’s a thought I’ve had for a very long time,” toxicologist Fabian Steinmetz says.

The knee-jerk response of generations of lawmakers and reporters brought up in the long era of prohibition will throw up their hands in horror at the very idea, exclaiming in unison that drugs are Bad, and hard drugs are Very Bad. But it’s worth listening with an open mind to what Dr Steinmetz has to say.


Pretty old school

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    He is lead author of a recently published paper, “The cocaine-e-cigarette – a theoretical concept of a harm reduction device for current users of smokable cocaine forms”, which makes a strong case for a crack vape device as a harm reduction tool for addicts.

    It says: “While strategies based on drug prohibition did not eradicate the consumption of smokable cocaine forms, prohibition itself led to many harmful effects, such as criminalisation, stigmatisation, unpredictable smokable cocaine forms quality and hardly any safer-use education.”

    It goes on to suggest “a cocaine-e-cigarette which could be prescribed to problematic users of smokable cocaine forms to reduce the risk of lung damage, exclude potentially harmful adulterants, limit intake (by formulation and/or technical settings) and also to bring users of smokable cocaine forms into the medical system”.

    Proponents of nicotine vaping as a harm reduction system may not readily take gladly to any association of e-cigs with a drug generally viewed as more problematic. But it’s hard to resist the view that what works for nicotine addicts might work just as well for victims of other addictions.

    So far, Steinmetz’s idea is just an idea. But as he says: “The general principle to put drugs in e-cigarettes, I mean, this is already pretty old school.”

    Aidan Semmens ECigIntelligence staff

    Photo: Ted McGrath

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    Aidan Semmens