Are You Inhaling Secondhand Cocaine?

We’ve seen the advertisements around the highways that say “second hand smoke is just as bad to your child” but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a “second hand cocaine causes you to commit crimes and puts you at risk of cancer.” Researchers have found that there are regions with high levels of cocaine and marijuana floating around the air that trigger these two things.

Studies were conducted since the early 1990’s to test how much cocaine was making it into our atmosphere. In 2007, Angelo Cecinato, a chemist working at the Institute of Atmospheric Pollution Research in Rome, detected cocaine in the air of Rome and in the city of Taranto near the coast of southern Italy.  At the time, this was nothing more than a curious find, but further studies revealed that the concentrations of whatever drug was higher wherever drug use was most prevalent.

Why is this good?

Well, right now law enforcement has to rely on word of mouth, and police arrest to determine which areas of the city use more drugs than the others. This is usually time consuming and by the time the police finds a “hot zone” it’s already to late. This new technique can help officers find drug areas faster and cheaper.

How accurate is this?

Surprisingly it’s very good, Cecinato and colleagues analyzed the air in 20 spots in eight regions of Italy in winter and 39 sites in 14 regions in summer. The investigators collected air samples, extracted the contaminants, and analyzed the results, checking for cocaine and cannabinoids (the active ingredients in marijuana). To rule out false positives caused by other compounds, the team also tested for common pollutants including hydrocarbons, ozone, and nitric oxide.

Interesting Finds with this new study:

After they found the areas of the city that used the most drugs, they began to cross reference several things. They found that the more cocaine that was found in the air, the higher the crime rate was for that specific area. The data showed associations between air levels of cocaine and crime, such as robbery.

They also found that there is a small relationship between cocaine levels and some cancers, and between cannabinoid levels and mental disorders, also turned up. But Cecinato cautions that it’s not clear what—if anything—those correlations mean. The study could be a starting point for future research, he says.

But, even though he found these connections, if you don’t use cocaine, you don’t really have to worry about anything. There is more cocaine found in your money than in the air. Compton said “I wouldn’t sound any alarm bells based on this one study. But the researchers did find this link, and it’s worth further exploration. Second-hand cigarette smoke wasn’t considered a health threat either, until comparatively recently.” This could be a problem in the future, but as right now, we have nothing to worry about. Via: Science Mag