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Five Lies You’ve Been Told About Cocaine

Can it thwart Nazis? Did it make Ozzy Osbourne snort piss? Let’s find out the truth.

The world is full of lies, and it’s hard to get through life without taking a few on board. Luckily, we’re here to sort the fact from the fiction, and find the plankton of truth in the ocean of bullshit. This week: Cocaine! Is it vegan? Do cops identify it with a quick rub on the gums? Let’s snort ourselves up some truth-lines with these cocaine facts.

Lie #1: “This is My Only Vice – I Don’t Drink, I Don’t Smoke, I’m a Vegan, I Just Enjoy a Line or Two”

Cocaine is incredibly un-vegan. It’s not made from animal byproducts, but the amount of blood spilled and animal habitat destroyed getting that baggie to you is pretty massive. 

A 2011 paper in Environmental Science & Technology aimed to quantify the deforestation caused by coca harvesting in Colombia and found that even small amounts of coca production involved large areas being cleared. The Colombian rainforest is one of the world’s most biodiverse areas, and large-scale deforestation puts thousands of species at risk of extinction. Cocaine production involves a reasonable amount of fairly harmful products — sulphuric acid, caustic soda and kerosene among them — and it seems reasonable to assume complying by waste disposal regulations is fairly close to the bottom of an illegal coke factory’s concerns. The U.N. World Drug Report found deforestation and cocaine production in Honduras to be moving fairly consistently in the same direction.  

Then there are the human lives put at risk (or outright ended) in the trafficking and smuggling of the coke — in 2017, in Mexico alone, there were almost 30,000 murders, the majority related to the drugs trade. 

It doesn’t even end once it’s snorted — cocaine users’ urine ends up putting the drug into the water supply. The River Thames in London — a river that contains a lot of fucked-up people’s piss — has so much cocaine in it that eels are ending up with hormone issues and muscle breakdown, all swollen and coke-bloated. 

People are increasingly aware of this, though. Occasionally sellers will boast of their coke’s ethical credentials — in fact, the 2019 World Drug Report found 85 percent of users would be happy to pay more for ethically-sourced cocaine — but this is likely to be horseshit. As Pills, Powder and Smoke author Antony Loewenstein told London’s Evening Standard: “Ethically sourced coke means oversight and transparency at every stage of the supply chain, with everyone from the farmers in Colombia to the suppliers in Europe being treated fairly and given an adequate wage.” 

That’s not on the cards anytime soon, so maybe don’t give anyone too much shit about their Big Mac while coked off your face.

Lie #2: When Ozzy Osbourne Was on Coke, He Snorted a Line of Ants and a Line of Piss — That’s How Fucked Up He Was!

One of the best-known scenes in Mötley Crüe’s memoir The Dirt features the band running into Ozzy Osbourne, who out-debauches them, showing even a band of coke-fuelled ultra-hedonists have their limits. As bassist Nikki Sixx recalled it in the book, Osbourne demanded a line and, told there was no cocaine available, demanded a straw:

“I handed him the straw, and he walked over to a crack in the sidewalk and bent over it. I saw a long column of ants, marching to a little sand dugout where the pavement met the dirt. And as I thought, ‘No, he wouldn’t,’ he did. He put the straw to his nose and, with his bare white ass peeking out from under the dress like sliced honeydew, sent the entire line of ants tickling up his nose with a single, monstrous snort.”

He then supposedly peed on the floor and licked it up, challenging Sixx to do the same, then pushed him out of the way and lapped Sixx’s urine up himself. The scene made it to the 2019 movie version, although Osbourne’s accent didn’t. 

There are two things to consider. Firstly, did it happen? Ozzy has repeatedly stated he has no recollection of the event, which has of course been taken as confirmation — he has also stated he has no recollection of the tour at all. Jake E. Lee, Osbourne’s guitarist at the time, has said that the incident was massively exaggerated, and that actually, Ozzy merely snorted “a little tiny stupid spider.” 

Secondly, whatever happened that day, how bad are ants and piss really? Eating ants is basically harmless — they have a soapy kind of flavor, and are pretty high in protein for their size. They’re eaten quite a lot, really, and will probably be eaten more and more in the future. Snorting them is unlikely to be pleasant — a live ant crawling around in your sinuses is presumably tickly at best — but it probably won’t do you any harm. Drinking piss places a bit of undue pressure on your kidneys, admittedly, but compared to what coke can do to you, piss is damn near medicine. 

If it did happen, it was in all likelihood the most sensible thing Ozzy did that day. 

Lie #3: That Stuff’ll Kill You!

Sure, it might, but not if you’re escaping Nazis in Denmark! Dr. Ernst Trier Morch (1908-1995) was, in terms of sheer numbers, one of the greatest men who ever lived — a pioneering anesthesiologist whose work developing respirators saved millions of lives, a bona-fide medical genius who discovered the genetic components of dwarfism and changed how the condition was viewed, and an all-round good dude who spent his twilight years voluntarily treating dangerous criminals in jail to spare nursing staff at the hospital having to deal with them.

He was a hell of a man, something that became clear in his 30s when Denmark’s 7,000 Jews were targeted by the Nazis. Along with many of the country’s doctors, Morch found himself performing rudimentary reverse circumcisions, stitching grafted skin onto people’s penises in order to get them through obligatory on-the-spot trou-drops demanded by Nazis.

Fake dick-skin can only save so many lives, though, and plans soon came together to smuggle people out to Sweden. However, the Nazis had sniffer dogs. Along with his friend Olaf Hubner, a pharmacist, Morch came up with an ingenious solution involving rabbits’ blood and cocaine. In 1995, he told the Chicago Tribune: “We discovered that if we took rabbit’s blood, and dried it, this created a lovely brownish powder that Olaf’s cocker spaniel couldn’t resist. He licked it, sniffed it, rolled in it. To this, we added cocaine, a 10 percent mixture. This cocaine-blood mixture we then sprinkled on the decks of our fishing boats. The next Gestapo dog that came along loved and sniffed and licked and reported back to his master that he couldn’t smell anything… because he couldn’t smell anything. His nose had a good local anesthetic.”

Saving lives and giving dogs a good time: What a man.

Lie #4: The Guy That Invented the ‘Back To the Future’ Car Became a Cocaine Trafficker

The rise and fall of John DeLorean is the stuff of legend — a hot-shot auto engineer who sold millions of cars for General Motors, started his own company, created an incredible-looking but completely bonkers car that cost a fortune and nobody bought, and ended his career embroiled in scandal after desperately getting involved in a massive drug deal. A proper 1980s story of excess, drugs and the coolest fucking doors ever.

He was kind of hard done by, though. DeLorean never actually trafficked any cocaine, or even hatched a plan to do so. In 1982, he was approached by a former neighbor who knew about his financial difficulties (the DeLorean DMC-12 went to market years later than planned, arriving to a recession-fucked market and disinterested public, resulting in $175 million of debt), offering him the chance to be part of a $24 million cocaine deal. Desperate for a cash injection, he agreed to be a part of it, at which point it was revealed to be an FBI sting operation. DeLorean had no criminal record and hadn’t instigated the deal, and it had never actually taken place.

DeLorean’s neighbor, James Hoffman, who was facing cocaine trafficking charges himself, had approached the FBI claiming DeLorean had proposed the deal, in a bid for a reduced sentence. Hoffman himself referred to his actions in one meeting with a DEA agent as “setting up an innocent man,” a fairly insane thing to admit. He also demanded a percentage of any seized money, which the FBI agreed to — the government were so excited about the prospect of a big sexy arrest, a millionaire businessman, that they were willing to make him into a criminal when he wasn’t one. That same DEA agent, Gerald Scotti, cried in court as he told the jury, “I knew from a long way back the government would go to any lengths to prosecute Mr. DeLorean. But I thought there was a limit to it — a bottom to it. Now, I’m not sure of it anymore.”

The entrapment was all too much for the jury, and DeLorean ended up acquitted but humiliated and bankrupt. He tried to get another car project off the ground, but mainly sold needlessly expensive watches to Back To The Future fans before dying in 2005 (he has a very cool gravestone). 

So he was never actually a drug trafficker, just someone who was extremely willing to be one. It’s a small difference, but it’s something.

Lie #5: If a Cop Finds a Big Bag of a Suspicious-Looking White Powder, They’ll Probably Rub Some on Their Gums to See if It’s Cocaine

They won’t, will they? Police departments run drug tests both at random intervals and after major incidents, and if you’re going around rubbing coke into your gums at every opportunity, you’re going to fail those tests. It’s also not the most reliable way of identifying cocaine, as other substances (lidocaine, for instance) will result in the same numbness in your gums. Plus, if it’s fentanyl rather than cocaine, you could end up incredibly sick. It does look cool though!