AFP logo at EBB Canberra

News Centre

Our latest media releases, podcasts and stories
06 December 2021, 8:34am
Media Release

Cocaine warning after detection of dangerous substances

Editor’s note: Images of drug testing and deconstruction are available for download.

The AFP is warning cocaine seized in Australia is testing positive for dangerous animal worming agents and a pharmaceutical that was withdrawn decades ago for causing cancer.

AFP Commander Forensic Operations Paula Hudson is urging the public not to consume cocaine amid concerns of what the illicit drug can be “cut” with.

“Drugs are often cut to a low purity using a range of potent chemicals and fillers,’’ Commander Hudson said.

“Levamisole, an animal worming agent that can cause serious skin infections in humans, is often detected in cocaine, which is mainly produced in the Americas.

“Phenacetin, a drug that is banned in most countries because it causes cancer and damages kidneys, is also being added to cocaine in a bid to boost the profits of illicit drug dealers.

“We are imploring Australians to be safe this Christmas and be mindful that their lives are often in the hands of brutal cartels and transnational serious organised criminals, like outlaw motorcycle gangs in Australia, who do not care about what toxic substances are being mixed with illicit drugs, which are dangerous in their own right.”

It is estimated Australians consume about 5.6 tonnes of cocaine every year.

Cocaine consumption in Australia has grown by more than 80 per cent in the past five years, matched by about a 50 per cent increase in coca plant cultivation and potential cocaine production in Colombia and Peru over that same period.

Increased cocaine supply has resulted in record export volumes via transit countries such as Panama.

Australian cocaine prices are among the highest in the world, which contributes significantly to the insulation and capability of criminal groups by providing them with financial reserves within the region.

The AFP believes demand for cocaine in Australia will continue to influence opportunistic criminals who are driven by greed.

Outlaw motorcycle groups, triads and cartels are often behind the illegal shipments, But the AFP, with assistance of partners, is a step ahead of many organised crime groups and is stopping or seizing cocaine at the border or in countries before it is trafficked to Australia.

In March this year, 200kg of cocaine in NSW and one alleged offender was charged by the AFP.

In May this year, 160kg of cocaine was seized in Victoria and six alleged offenders were charged.

One alleged offender was charged in June in NSW for the importation of 216kg of cocaine.

The AFP has charged a number of other alleged offenders for cocaine and illicit drug trafficking this year.

Last month, two Queensland men appeared in Brisbane Magistrates Court charged with possessing nearly 540kg of cocaine in 2020.

This year alone, the AFP, with assistance of partners, has seized 1.12 tonnes of cocaine.

In January 2021, the AFP seized more than 590kg of cocaine, the single largest cocaine seizure this year.

Media enquiries

AFP Media: (02) 5126 9297