80% of Cocaine May Be Cut With A Flesh Eating Drug

Doctors recently made a disturbing discovery about the cocaine supply in the United States – up to 80% of it may be cut with the veterinary drug levamisole, which can cause human skin to rot.

This is the latest “flesh eating” issue to hit the news. Hannele Cox, a Californian teen, apparently contracted a flesh-eating infection from a fish tank when she was 8, and made news earlier this year due to the severity of the infection, which may require that her hand eventually be amputated (see ABC’s Good Morning America story here). The stories are actually NOT related, although they share a common and horrifying theme.

In the case of cocaine, there are a number of questions. First, why would someone cut cocaine with a veterinary drug, specifically one that targets livestock? ABC’s report suggests this was done because it might slightly enhance the effects of the drug. According to the DEA, 82% of seized cocaine contains the livestock deworming drug levamisole.

Some people seem more vulnerable to the effects of the levamisole/cocaine mixture than others. Without medical attention, the infections it causes can be fatal. While it often acts on the ears, nose, and cheeks, it can target the rest of the body as well, cutting off blood vessels that supply blood to the skin and making it rot. For those that do come down with an infection, once the drug has been cleared out of the body, the wounds heal and scar.

While not as harmful on the whole as other dangerous mixtures that sometimes pop up, like fentanyl/heroin or fentanyl/cocaine, this mixture is all over the US cocaine market and we will no doubt be hearing about it for a while. All users of cocaine, no matter how addicted or how casual, are at risk.  As always, if you are a concerned parent, you can purchase a cocaine drug test to see if your teen is getting into cocaine.

For others, this “flesh eating” cocaine will spark other arguments.  Does this support the notion that drugs ought to be legalized so they can be better regulated?  Or that no-tolerance policies need to be reinforced?

We’ll be keeping an eye out to see how this problem is handled and if affects national drug policy.  Until next time…