‘It felt more like K and coke – I remember it having a pretty awful drip’
At the very end of last summer, Spanish police on the island of Ibiza seized around 13 kilos of a drug called ‘pink cocaine’. The powder was found among large quantities of other drugs, a firearm, and hundreds of thousands in different currencies, in a raid that saw at least 12 people arrested.
The pink cocaine phenomenon sprang up around a decade ago, over 5,000 miles away in Colombia. At the time, younger narcos looking to stand out against their competition began adding bright pink food colouring and strawberry scents to their substances – marketing them as an exclusive new drug for the country’s thriving electronic music and sex scenes. Although it’s been around for a while, there have been reports that it’s now becoming increasingly prevalent in cities throughout Europe. But is it an actual drug, or just a novelty idea? We break it down.
WHAT IS PINK COCAINE?
Known locally as ‘tuci’ – pronounced like Lucy, or “2C” – the bright pink powder is typically made in home DIY setups by smaller criminal organisations, who tend to bulk it out with inconsistent quantities of MDMA and ketamine, as well as various other substances (despite the name, it can often not contain any actual cocaine). This provides the user with a euphoric but droney high, but also means that doses can be highly inconsistent.
WHAT EXACTLY IS IN IT?
Tuci derives its name from 2-CB and some batches – such as the one seized in Ibiza – are found to contain the drug. For those who don’t know, 2-CB is a synthetic psychedelic drug that was developed in the 1970s by legendary psychopharmacologist Alexander Shulgin, and it’s normally consumed in either pill or powder form. Anecdotally, 2-CB is said to combine mild LSD-like visuals with a euphoric buzz.
2-CB has been popularised by rappers like Kanye West and RAF Camora, to name just a few, and it’s this pop culture link that is believed to have led Colombian narcos to effectively name-drop it through their marketing of tuci. But the idea that 2-CB could act as a ‘pink cocaine’ is questionable, and mixing it with unknown quantities of other drugs is ill-advised. “2C-B requires tiny doses consisting of a few milligrams,” says Dr Hannah Thurgur, Senior Research Officer at UK-based drugs policy charity, Drugs Science. “Even slight changes to a dose, that aren’t detectable by eye, could drastically impact the intensity of the drug effects.”
She adds that snorting of 2C-B is also “highly inadvisable”, as it can be “painful” and “associated with a very rapid onset, normally within minutes, which can make it harder for people to adjust to their altered state safely. If other substances are consumed simultaneously, the onset will also be rapid and peak effects could be experienced at once.”
That said, although 2C-B has been found in some batches of tuci, MDMA and ketamine are believed to be much more prevalent.
HOW COMMON IS IT?
Despite all evidence pointing to the fact that tuci is more of a novelty idea than an actual drug, ‘pink cocaine’ has begun to make its way across the world and into European markets.
A recently published UN report on the illicit ketamine market found that pink powdered ketamine had been found by drug-checking services and law enforcement bodies in Austria, Spain, Switzerland and the UK – where drug-checking service The Loop released a warning about pink tuci samples tested at a music festival in August.
Speaking to Dazed, Trevor Shine, the Director at UK-based drug identification and information provider at TICTAC Communications Ltd, confirmed that they “had come across a small number of samples of pink powder or crystals over the last two years” and that one “contained MDMA and ketamine, and another caffeine and ketamine”. However, he adds, many others were either just cocaine or MDMA. He went on to say that the ten or so samples they tested represent less than 0.5 per cent of all samples tested by TICTAC over the same time period, although mixtures of cocaine and ketamine that are not pink in colour are known to have been around for a while.
While still relatively uncommon, synthetic strawberry-coloured drugs seem to be making their way to the UK. Quin (not his real name) was given a line of what he was told was pink cocaine at a north London house party in 2021. “I thought it was hilarious because I’d never heard of it before and I’m being told it’s pink coke without any explanation,” he says. “It just looked like a pill crushed up with ket. I’d tried K and MDMA before but it felt more like K and coke – I remember it having a pretty awful drip. I haven’t come across it since.”
Anyone who’s watched Breaking Bad or eaten those white Skittles will know that colours are a massive part of the branding and don’t necessarily affect the consumption of a product. And that’s all that pink cocaine really is – a branding exercise that enables you to get high off something that looks more fun. However, consuming an unknown mixture of substances comes with risks.
“Mixing drugs can be dangerous. For example, mixing two depressant drugs like alcohol and benzos is particularly risky as this can drastically slow down breathing and heart rate,” says Dr Thurgur. “It is good practice for people who may mix drugs to use tools such as TripSit to get some insights into particularly risky interactions. There’s also the ongoing risk that people don’t know what’s in their drugs – this is why we need drug checking services such as the Loop so people can make informed choices.”
“Pink tuci highlights the need for innovative methods of tracking drug trends and drug checking so we can ensure effective harm reduction.”
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