Designer drug to blame for disintegrating euro notes

November 14th, 2006 § 0 comments

German police have claimed that the corrosive designer drug known as “crystal meth” was responsible for hundreds of self-destructing euro notes which have been mysteriously disintegrating in the hands of baffled shoppers and bank clerks since early last summer.

More than 1,700 crumbling €50 and €20 notes have surfaced in at least 17 German towns and cities since June this year, prompting fears of a potential health risk and speculation about a possible blackmail attempt.

The crumbing note mystery, which causes large holes to appear in euro notes as soon as they are touched, prompted a nationwide investigation by police and the German Bundesbank, which has been obliged to take back hundreds of damaged €50 and €20 notes. Yet nobody blamed drug users for the problem.

Police and the German Bundesbank said they had almost certainly solved the mystery. The answer is apparently the designer drug crystal methamphetamine. Taken through the nose, the drug is rapidly replacing cocaine at parties and on the German club scene. Rainer Wenzel, a police forensic scientist who has been given the job of solving the bank-note mystery, said yesterday that crystal meth addicts habitually used a €50 or a €20 note to portion out and snort the drug because the notes had the right proportions.

“When a contaminated note comes into contact with human sweat, an aggressive acid is produced,” he said. “If the note is in a wallet with a wad of other notes, the corrosion will spread to all of them.”

Police said that although crystal meth had originated in the United States, where it has become the scourge of rural America, large quantities of the highly addictive and destructive drug were coming into Germany from Poland and the Balkans, where crystal methamphetamine was being refined and mixed with corrosive sulphates in the process.

Drug users in Europe should be wary: if the example of the US is anything to go by, crystal meth can prove lethal to rural communities not usually associated with chronic drug abuse.

Much more so than cocaine, crack, heroin or marijuana, small-town USA has steadily fallen prey to crystal meth, the effects of which are described by some as “having 10 orgasms at once”.

Originally produced using over-the-counter medication containing ephedrine bought from local chemists, use of the drug has steadily increased over the past few years.

Although disintegrating €50 and €20 notes are a new phenomenon, the discovery of drug traces on bank notes has become routine. Three years ago German researchers conducted an exhaustive examination of 600 euro notes. They found that nine out of 10 banknotes carried clearly measurable amounts of cocaine and concluded that they could contaminate notes in bank cash-counting machines.

Professor Fritz Soergel of the Nuremberg Institute for Pharmaceutical Research, which carried out the study, started examining euro notes shortly after the introduction of the new currency in January 2002. Back then, only two out of 70 notes were found to carry traces of cocaine.

He said that his findings showed there was a clear correlation between the contaminated notes and levels of recorded cocaine use in the 12 countries of the euro currency zone. “Much less cocaine was found on banknotes from countries where there is less cocaine usage, such as France, Finland and Greece,” he said.

The worst offenders were the Spanish. Professor Soergel said he and his team of researchers were “almost knocked flat” by the results of a study conducted in Barcelona. “The concentrations of cocaine on Spanish notes were almost a hundred times that of what we recorded in Germany,” he said.

German police have claimed that the corrosive designer drug known as “crystal meth” was responsible for hundreds of self-destructing euro notes which have been mysteriously disintegrating in the hands of baffled shoppers and bank clerks since early last summer.

That’s new, a drug that makes money disappear while it’s still in your wallet.

Labels: Drugs

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