Colombia’s Infamous ‘Pink Cocaine’ Is on the Rise in Europe

The drug, a mix of ketamine, MDMA and pink food colouring, is being sold by a new generation of young narcos in Colombia and is increasingly being seized by authorities in Europe.
Max Daly
London, GB
Bags containing a powder known as "tusi" or pink cocaine are pictured in Medellin, Colombia. Photo: Joaquin Sarmiento/AFP via Getty Images.

A bright pink drug from Colombia that is a mish-mash of MDMA and ketamine is gaining traction among drug users in Europe.

Known to buyers as “tusi” (pronounced ‘2C’) – and by the media and police as “pink cocaine” even though it contains no cocaine –the concoction is increasingly being taken by drug users and seized by police in Spain, and is surfacing elsewhere in Europe.


In Colombia’s major cities, the drug has become synonymous with a new generation of young narcos who are making and selling the drug for use in the country’s late-night club scenes and seedy tourist sex trade. 

Marketed by dealers on the back of its colour as a high more exclusive than cocaine, tusi is more of a brand than a specific substance. 

The drug first appeared on Colombia’s streets in around 2010. The pink powder, dyed with food colouring to make it stand out from other powders and usually smelling of strawberry, was called “tusi” because it contained the psychedelic drug 2CB. 

Since then forensic tests have shown the drug has morphed into an unpredictable mix, most often containing varying proportions of ketamine and MDMA, bulked out with caffeine. The product, made by suppliers in local DIY kitchen labs, varies with each “cook”, and has been found to contain a variety of other drugs, such as benzos, meth and cathinones, although rumours it has been found to contain fentanyl are unproven. 

Users often experience a mixture of ketamine’s sedative, trippy high with the more stimulant buzz of MDMA and caffeine. 

Last week, Spanish police announced they had busted seven members of a gang who are alleged to have been involved with distributing cocaine and tusi in Madrid and Malaga after smuggling it in drug-filled suitcases by air from Latin America. A search of their homes in Spain revealed 8 kilos of what officers called “pink cocaine,” as well as regular cocaine and cash. 


In August police found 13 kilos of what they called “pink cocaine”, likely the largest haul so far of tusi in Europe, on the island of Ibiza, along with regular cocaine and ketamine, €440,000 (around £380,000 or $460,000) in cash and a submachine gun. Of the 12 arrested, most were British and two were Colombian. This summer, a false scare story spread on social media alleged that a batch of tusi laced with fentanyl had been causing a spate of overdoses on the island.. In May, police found a drug lab in a town just outside Madrid where they said suppliers had been mixing up drugs to create pink cocaine. 

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According to a UN drugs report on the rise of the illegal ketamine trade published this week, this year tusi has been spotted at a music festival in the UK, and also in Austria and Switzerland. In July, a Colombian national arrested for smuggling cocaine into Italy was found with tusi at his Milan home.   

“This drug is connected to the neo-drug trafficker culture in Colombia,” Julian Quintero, a sociologist and researcher at Social Technical Action, a Colombian drug policy NGO, told VICE World News. “The best party places and the million-peso prostitutes at the most ostentatious parties are not in the hands of the traditional adult “patrons" of the drug trade, but of daring youngsters who have learned to ‘cook’ tusi in their own kitchens.” Quintero said, with the help of tusi, neo-drug trafficker culture has “taken the monopoly of money and beautiful women away from the cocaine traffickers”. 


“With tusi, anyone can be a young man playing a drug trafficker. The teenage gangster culture has been democratised.” He said tusi is the most popular drug of choice for foreigners who enter the sex trade in Medellin and Cartagena. 


A graffiti depiction of "tusi" at Social Technical Action's drug checking site in Bogota. Image: Hellsaintcat

Now tusi is the fifth most popular drug in Colombia and is a regular on the narcotic menu in countries such as Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay, Chile and Panama. 

It was perhaps inevitable the drug would start to pop up in Spain, the European country with the closest links to Colombia’s drug world. The drug has been identified sporadically in Spain since 2011, and one of the first major busts was in 2016, when nine people including some Colombians were arrested for operating a tusi lab just outside Madrid. 

But experts say that over the last three years they have seen a jump in the product’s prevalence across Spain. 

A survey of 1,412 recreational drug users carried out earlier this year by Energy Control, a drug harm reduction NGO, found one in five people said they had used tusi in the last 12 months. Before 2019, the NGO, which tests drugs sent in by the public, received only a handful of drug samples it identified as tusi, but in the last three years it has received 150.   

“Contrary to the belief that "pink cocaine" is a drug of the elites, used by models and rich people, this product is being used by people from every level,” said Claudio Vidal, a director at Energy Control. “Although at the beginning it was found mainly in big cities like Madrid or Barcelona, or touristic locations like Ibiza, Costa del Sol, today it has spread to other cities.”

The spread of tusi is part of a slow but significant shift in the world’s drug supply, from plant-based drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin to synthetic drugs made in labs, which are often easier and cheaper to produce, but like fentanyl can be more unpredictable and deadly.