Flesh eating cocaine, which is cocaine cut with the veterinary drug levamisole, has appeared in cases of people reporting to hospitals in New York and Los Angeles.
Levamisole was originally used as an anthelminthic, a specific drug that stuns or kills worms, to treat worm infestations in both humans and animals. Its most current commercial preparations are intended for veterinary use as a de-wormer in cattle, pigs, and sheep.
Levamisole has been used in humans to treat infections of parasitic worms, and has been studied in combination with other forms of chemotherapy for colon cancer, melanoma, and head and neck cancer.
But it is a potent drug that can rot the skin off noses, ears and cheeks of people exposed to it.
Levamisole + Coke = Flesh Eating Cocaine
“It’s probably quite a big problem, and we just don’t know yet how big a problem it really is,” said Dr. Noah Craft, a dermatologist with Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute.
Craft is one of several doctors across the country that has linked the rotting skin to the tainted flesh eating cocaine. The gruesome wounds surface days after a hit because of an immune reaction that attacks the blood vessels supplying the skin. Without blood, the skin starves and suffocates.
Flesh Eating Cocaine and the U.S. Coke Supply
Levamisole has increasingly been used as a cutting agent in cocaine sold in both the U.S. and Canada – in 2008–2009, levamisole was found in 69% of cocaine samples seized by the US DEA.
By April 2011, levamisole was found to contaminate 82% of seized cocaine, according to yet another report by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Dealers are cutting their stash with levamisole instead of the more traditional fillers, like baking soda, for a couple of reasons. First, studies in rats suggest that levamisole acts on the same brain receptors as cocaine; so it might be added to enhance the euphoric effects of the now flesh eating cocaine and for cheap.
Another reason dealers are turning to levamisole, which turns regular coke into flesh eating cocaine, is that levamisole adds both bulk and weight to powdered cocaine and so their product appears to be pure even though it has been cut, or “stepped on.” Besides its possible stimulant effects and having a similar appearance to cocaine, it is also possible that the flesh eating cocaine combination has an ability to pass street purity tests.
Flesh Eating Cocaine: Disturbing Effects
Dr. Lindy Fox, the University of California, San Francisco dermatologist who was the first to connect the gruesome lesions on cocaine users to Levamisole, states that some patients have more extreme reactions than others. Dr. Fox describes the case of one man, in particular, whose entire body, including his face, was black with dying flesh.
And as if rotting skin wasn’t enough to turn you off of cocaine, for fear of it being part of the batch of flesh eating cocaine, levamisole also prevents the bone marrow from producing white blood cells, which are necessary in fighting off infection.