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The Almighty Buck Science

Up To 90 Percent of US Money Has Traces of Cocaine 441

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the having-more-fun-than-me dept.
mmmscience writes "Scientists have found that up to 90% of US paper money has some cocaine contamination, up from the 67% mark measured two years ago. Looking at bills from 17 cities, it's no surprise that the city with the highest level was Washington DC, where up to 95% of bills gathered there tested positive. From a global standpoint, both Canada and Brazil tested rather high (85% and 80%, respectively), but China and Japan were well behind the curve at 20% and 12%. The researchers hope that studies such as these will be of help to law enforcement agencies that are attempting to understand the growth and flow of drug use in communities."
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Up To 90 Percent of US Money Has Traces of Cocaine

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  • So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SigILL (6475) on Monday August 17, 2009 @10:50AM (#29092865) Homepage

    Don't get caught with US dollars on you in Dubai.

  • by bagboy (630125) <neoNO@SPAMarctic.net> on Monday August 17, 2009 @10:55AM (#29092939)
    Please, could it not simply be that when the money is bundled together it is cross-contaminated?
  • So guys... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday August 17, 2009 @10:56AM (#29092957) Journal
    I see Plan Columbia has been a smashing success, just like all the other attempts at Prohibition 2.0: This Time Without Constitutional Justification.
  • .006 micrograms? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gad_zuki! (70830) on Monday August 17, 2009 @10:56AM (#29092959)

    These types of studies come out pretty often, usually with the same hysterical tone. When you start talking about stuff in such tiny amounts then just about any substance can be found. There's cocaine in the air in many places if you go as low as parts per billion. There's uranium in the water. There's the ash of dead people in your air. There's fly eggs in your soup. There's pesticides in your baby's bottle.

    If anything, this is more interesting in our ability to detect small amounts of things than a social statement.

  • by greywire (78262) on Monday August 17, 2009 @10:58AM (#29093001) Homepage

    I am curious what the break down is on the types of bills being used. Is there a preference for $20 or $100 bills? I always preferred the $100, partly for show, but also because they tended to be crisper..

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:00AM (#29093037) Homepage Journal

    Also, money goes through a lot of hands. The suggestion is that 90% of Americans are cocaine users, which is patently false.

  • by noundi (1044080) on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:02AM (#29093073)

    Scientists have found that up to 90% of US paper money has some cocaine contamination, up from the 67% mark measured two years ago.

    The contamination "spreading" is solely due to clean bills getting in contact with contaminated bills. 90% of the US dollars have not been used to sniff cocaine. If 67% were contaminated two years ago it is only logical that in time the rest would be bound to become contaminated as well, even if cocaine had seized to exist completely.

  • by pz (113803) on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:02AM (#29093081) Journal

    There are so many sources of cocaine and like substances in our society that it's no wonder it can be found everywhere (looking at currency is more sexy than say, doorknobs, and I'd imagine the same level of contamination), legal and otherwise. Benzocaine, for example, is a common numbing agent for oral use that is in the same chemical family. So is novacaine. They just don't have the popular cachet, but I'd be pleasantly surprised if the testing used could distinguished between them. I imagine if you tested currency for benzodiazepines (valium and the like) or SSRIs (Prozac and the like) or beta blockers or digitalis or any commonly prescribed drug, you'd find near 100% contamination as well. BFD. People use cocaine and other drugs both medically and recreationally. News at 11.

    I'd be much, much more interested to know how much of the currency showed evidence of, say, uranium or plutonium. Those are supposed to be scarce, really, really scarce.

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:06AM (#29093153) Homepage

    If anything, this is more interesting in our ability to detect small amounts of things than a social statement.

    Oh well I wouldn't be too sure that there aren't any social statements to be made. After all, they didn't detect cocaine in most Japanese money, so it's not like its the effect of some world-wide minuscule cocaine miasma, or at least its one that varies by location and thus presumably by quantity in the country.

    So what this tells me about our societies is that Japan is an untapped market! Oh man! I'm on the next flight to Tokyo via L.A. Though I guess I'll have to practice my balloon-swallowing first.

  • Drugs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Archangel Michael (180766) on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:07AM (#29093183) Journal

    Drugs are a CASH business. It is one of the last CASH ONLY businesses out there. Most other people are taking Checks, Visa, and Debit Cards as primary sources of transactions, leaving Cash a fourth level barely used.

    I would not suprise me to see this trend go upwards, and eventually some idiot politician will suggest that we get rid of cash. Which will be followed up by some Christian suggesting that is the Mark of the Beast ....

  • Re:Obviously. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jamstar7 (694492) on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:13AM (#29093309)

    Nobody seriously believes that 90% of money has gone through drug trafficker's hands and pockets.

    except your local 'law & order' politician looking to score votes in the upcoming election. And here in the States, there's always an upcoming election...

  • by Vellmont (569020) on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:19AM (#29093405) Homepage

    The cross-contamination comes from high-speed counting devices in banks becoming contaminated. They then spread the cocaine to other bills as they're counted. This isn't anything new. I think I first heard about this at least 15 years ago.

    The article is about the contamination rate going up. The implication is drug use is up. The other possibility is the spreading mechanism is more efficient for whatever reason. (Different machines, less machines? Stickier cocaine?). Assuming drug usage is up without knowing if anything else has changed in this uncontrolled experiment is potentially very misleading.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:20AM (#29093427)

    I'm going to take the China and Japan stats with a grain of salt given that I believe the US dollar to be THE official currency of the coke business.

    If you take that into account, and factor in unavoidable cross contamination there's really no value in this study.

  • by tekrat (242117) on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:20AM (#29093433) Homepage Journal

    Cocaine is NOT a harmless drug, it kills people and robs them of a liveliehood at a far greater rate than almost any other drug. It is insanely addictive and knowing a couple of friends who have struggled with it I can only hope for your own sake you never try it.

    Sorry, but I could say the exact same thing about liquor. Ever been to an AA meeting? Alcohol ruins more lives than any other drug in the USA. And yet it's legal.

  • by TheCarp (96830) * <<ten.tenaprac> <ta> <cjs>> on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:21AM (#29093467) Homepage

    Dude, drug prohibition is bad no matter which drug you choose. Even heroin, as bad as it is, isn't ha;f as bad as the prohibition that tries to ban it.

    It all based on the idea that if you make people desperate enough, they will quit. Not entirely incorrect, some recent research shows that people quit drugs almost entirely for practical reasons.

    What they ignore is the problems caused by making people desperate are worst than the original addiction. Swiss studies have shown that simply providing heroin at a price similar to what it would be on the open market decreased the amount of income that the study subjects took in through other illegal activities by 90%, in a few weeks.

    Its been found they can hold down jobs (much like many alcoholics do), they can afford their habbit, afford food, etc.

    Simply put, prohibition is a broken model from the very start. Cannabis is simply the largest (more cannabis smokers in the US than all other illegal drug users combined), and the one with the most ridiculous lies spread about it.

    -Steve

  • by eagee (1308589) on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:25AM (#29093525)
    I'd just like to say that the "War on Drugs" has been a great use of our taxpayer dollars. Very effective. Good thing we're spending so much money keeping people in prison instead of paying for medical care. Yay us.
  • Re:In all fairness (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vectronic (1221470) on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:29AM (#29093585)

    So the point is that the contamination has increased.

    Perhaps, but that may not mean that the cocaine industry is increasing, if it was say 40% in 1985, pretend that same 40% is still in circulation, the now 90% contamination may simply be from newer/more bills touching the original 40%... how old is your wallet? When is the last time you bothered to wash it? (especially since most are leather) I bet quite a few people have wallets/purses/etc that are 10 years old, all with "traces" of cocaine in them spreading to new bills put in them.

    What about other factors like ATM and cash registers, the bags the money is put in by banks for travel/dispersal, when is the last time they were washed, most of those are (the machines as well) are probably a decade old or more.

  • Re:In all fairness (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Philip K Dickhead (906971) <folderol@fancypants.org> on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:32AM (#29093635) Journal

    What part of the Iran-Contra business did you fail to fully understand, 30 years ago? It's only worse, today.

    ALL USD is tainted by Cocaine.

    And by child slavery, forced prostitution and slaughter of innocents. Viva Roma!

  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:41AM (#29093833) Homepage Journal
    "With how some bill counting machines flap the bills around, it's suprising there isn't a nice layer of cocaine dust over half of the bank."

    Hmm...well, that would go a LONG way in explaining our current financial/banking situation.

  • Re:In all fairness (Score:5, Insightful)

    by natehoy (1608657) on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:47AM (#29093967) Journal

    Yes, that's quite possible. I'm also sure that their measurement floor of .006 micrograms has a lot to do with it - I'm relatively certain that such amounts were all but undetectable in the 1980s for example.

    And, for the record, I'm not (as the article is) suggesting that "contamination" = "use". The article is making a ridiculous assumption, on that we certainly agree.

    I think the explanation is far simpler. Population increases (money changing hands faster), increases in detection equipment so we can detect increasingly tiny contamination, more machines handling money so the machines can get contaminated and spread the contamination further, etc etc etc.

    Douglas Adams was right. Eliminating phone sanitizers is a really bad idea. Recall the "B" Ark!

  • Re:Drugs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmajik (96670) <matt@mattevans.org> on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:56AM (#29094097) Homepage Journal

    My household has largely reverted back to cash-only for our commerce. It is easier to stick to a reasonable budget, the terms of a cash transaction are perfectly clear -- there are no double-jeopardy fee problems ["they stopped the check, then you were overdrawn. You lose"], and with the recent tightening on credit card companies, some of those companies are going to go after customers like me -- who _never_ carried a balance -- with annual fees or shorter repayment periods or day-0 interest assessment or other silly tricks. Not interested.

    But the #1 reason to revert to cash is that it is relatively anonymous -- or rather, it is moreso than any other face to face currency exchange we can easily perform. I think it will become increasingly important that Americans can conduct basic commerce in a way that is difficult to tie back to individuals. The cost to gather, store, and analyze data will approach zero, as will the public's ability to prevent the government from doing so and doing so for questionable reasons. Thus, not contributing data is the most workable mitigation.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 17, 2009 @12:01PM (#29094215)

    Your local statistician here, to point out your BS. You give you reason why 234 is a "horrible sample size". Sample size is a function of what kind of statistical power you want to be able to detect differences among strata, along with how wide your confidence intervals will be. With binomial random variables where the probability of success is far from .5 (e.g., this case, with p-hat = .95 in some cities), you don't need a very large sample size at all to accurately hone in on the true value. This is all contingent on a random sampling method, and that's where I'd be suspect. However, the results seem fairly consistent across time and place.

    I'm just trying to point that sometimes 30 is enough of a sample size, sometimes you need 1000, sometimes, 10,000, sometimes 1,000,000. IT IS COMPLETELY DEPENDENT ON WHAT EFFECT YOU ARE TRYING TO MEASURE, AND HOW MUCH VARIANCE THERE IS AMONG EXPERIMENTAL UNITS. Blindly chiming SMALL SAMPLE SIZE will be very convincing to actual statisticians or scientists!

  • Re:In all fairness (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tkohler (806572) on Monday August 17, 2009 @12:07PM (#29094307)
    You guys are all missing the obvious... What do you think the press-operators at the U.S. Mint do on their breaks in the paper storage room?
  • Re:In all fairness (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zippthorne (748122) on Monday August 17, 2009 @12:23PM (#29094611) Journal

    Except, the average lifespan of a paper note is about 18 months depending on the denomination. Very few 1985 bills remain in circulation today.

    (which, btw, is the argument for using coinage instead. Coins last *much* longer than paper money, and usually have a fraction of their face value in metals content (which provides some pressure against inflation, for obvious reasons) but that's an argument for another day, dollar coin refusers.)

  • I imagine if you tested currency for benzodiazepines (valium and the like) or SSRIs (Prozac and the like) or beta blockers or digitalis or any commonly prescribed drug, you'd find near 100% contamination as well.

    Why? Is Prozac routinely crushed up and snorted?

  • Re:In all fairness (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RegularFry (137639) on Monday August 17, 2009 @01:12PM (#29095327)

    Except, the average lifespan of a paper note is about 18 months depending on the denomination. Very few 1985 bills remain in circulation today.

    Ah, but - with the levels they're measuring, contact contamination between notes *must* be an issue. While the notes themselves won't be in circulation, that doesn't necessarily mean that the contamination half-life isn't longer than a given bill's circulation life.

  • Bail Out Money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NFN_NLN (633283) on Monday August 17, 2009 @02:50PM (#29096701)

    In order to achieve this level on contamination, one needs to look to the source. Clearly this explains where all the bank bailout money went.... coke parties for all the bankers.

  • Re:Bail Out Money (Score:2, Insightful)

    by natehoy (1608657) on Monday August 17, 2009 @03:11PM (#29096933) Journal

    If I had mod points, it would be a hard choice how to moderate your post.

    "Funny", no, it's really not. True things can't be funny.

    "Insightful" is probably closest.

    What I really want is "True, but depressing."

  • Re:In all fairness (Score:3, Insightful)

    by skine (1524819) on Monday August 17, 2009 @03:27PM (#29097127)

    People have an average lifespan of less than 80 years. So it's unlikely that a communicable disease would last for more than a couple centuries, right?

  • by kheldan (1460303) on Monday August 17, 2009 @03:56PM (#29097525) Journal
    Haven't we already known this for decades now? Is it a slow news Monday or something?
  • Re:In all fairness (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RockoTDF (1042780) on Monday August 17, 2009 @08:50PM (#29100015) Homepage
    Pretty narrow minded statement there. In reality, it is a good way to compare which countries are using cocaine, and possibly even how often. I would be willing to bet that you find it more on higher valued bills, and finding it on lower valued bills is probably an indicator that the less affluent are also using it. Those are just examples I thought up right now (didn't read article because I've read about this before) and I'm sure someone who actually does this for a living could be even more creative.

Time to take stock. Go home with some office supplies.

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