'It's like hell coming to the city streets': Drug counselors react to Philly cocaine bust

PHILADELPHIA -- Action News has learned that authorities have made additional arrests in the historically large cocaine seizure at the Packer Marine Terminal in Philadelphia.

The billion-dollar drug bust continues to boggle the minds of many.

And while authorities continue to sort through the many containers looking for more cocaine, drug addiction counselors confirmed what we suspected: a steady uptick in the demand for the drug.

Drug addiction counselors have been focused on treating the epidemic of opioid addicts, but many knew there would someday be a resurgence of some drugs. Then they heard about the billion-dollar cocaine bust at the Packer Terminal.

"I said, 'Well, ok, it's here. Because we've been looking for what's the next drug," said Mary Doherty with CORA Services, Inc.

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16.5 tons of cocaine worth $1 billion seized at Philadelphia port. Watch raw video from the scene on June 18, 2019.

But recovering addict, now drug counselor Lisa Hutt, who knows first-hand the dangers of cocaine, couldn't believe that such a huge shipment would be headed to the Port of Philadelphia.

"It's like hell coming to the city streets," said Hutt.

And while this is by far a historic cocaine seizure-- a record for Philadelphia-- it is indicative of the huge appetite for the drug in the U.S. and Europe.

The historic bust comes amid a series of large seizures of the drug in the Northeast, including a seizure back in May of roughly 450 kilos of cocaine at the Port of Philadelphia.

Another bust at the Port of Philadelphia in March netted a total of 450 bricks of cocaine, weighing 1,185 pounds with a street value of $38 million. At the time, law enforcement officials said it was their biggest cocaine bust at the Port of Philadelphia in 21 years.

New York saw its largest cocaine bust in a quarter century in March as well with $77 million worth of the drug seized from a cargo ship in the port of New York and New Jersey.

Here is what we didn't know.

"The drug dealers are actually mixing fentanyl and crack cocaine to keep people addicted and to keep people buying it," said Hutt.

What you may have heard is that people are using cocaine to break their heroin habit," said Doherty.

But, it's not an entirely new concept. Some may remember the phrase used in the drug world known as "speedballing" -- the combination of heroin and cocaine.

"So heroin depresses your central nervous system, cocaine speeds it up. So either way, they're both deadly. Put them together, they're deadlier," said Doherty.

America has been throwing tons of money at interdicting drugs and treating the symptoms, but Doherty doesn't believe we've done enough at addressing what's driving a person's need for such drugs.

"It's a sense of loneliness and a detachment, and a sense of purpose and 'I don't belong and I'm different and I'm sad,'" said Doherty.

Authorities are expected to hold a news conference possibly this week to reveal more on their discovery at the Philadelphia port.