It’s a well-known and established fact that a high percentage of street cocaine is laced with levamisole, a veterinary drug used to deworm animals. It’s not just odd: it can be deadly, literally eating the flesh of those who use it. In fact, the Drug Enforcement Administration reported that 82 percent of the cocaine it seizes has been cut with the veterinary drug, a substance that doctors say can rot away the skin on noses, cheeks and ears of people who use it.1
What Is Levamisole?
Levamisole is a veterinary drug used to deworm animals now being used as a filler in cocaine.
Levamisole is finding its way into the cocaine supply because it’s a cheap filler that allows drug dealers to boost profits. It’s so common, in fact, that some cheaper cocaine contains up to 90 percent filler. In the past, cocaine was often cut with relatively harmless substances like baking soda, but South American drug cartels prefer to use levamisole, possibly because it’s purported to affect brain receptors in a way similar to cocaine. This means it can provide a cheaper high, but that comes at a high price for unsuspecting users.
A published case study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology linked six patients with patches of dying flesh to tainted cocaine.2
Doctors say the wounds usually surface within 24 hours of exposure and are the result of an immune reaction that damages blood vessels supplying the skin. Without any blood supply, the skin is starved of oxygen, turns a dark purple and dies off. While not everyone will experience this serious side effect, anyone using tainted cocaine is at risk.
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1 “82% of Cocaine in U.S. Contaminated by Veterinary De-worming Drug.” publicintelligence.net. 8 August 2011.
2 Moisse, Katie, “Cocaine Laced With Veterinary Drug Levamisole Eats Away at Flesh.” ABC News. 23 June 2011.