No one will believe me, of course, but just this morning I was thinking, “I wonder what’s new in the world of cocaine.”
Cocaine cut with the veterinary drug levamisole could be the culprit in a flurry of flesh-eating disease in New York and Los Angeles.
The drug, used to deworm cattle, pigs and sheep, can rot the skin off noses, ears and cheeks. And over 80 percent of the country’s coke supply contains it. . . .
[Dr. Noah] Craft is one of several doctors across the country who have linked the rotting skin to tainted coke. 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.
For a period in the 1990s, levamisole was hailed as an effective component in adjuvant chemotherapy for stage III colon cancer; then a few studies came out showing that the drug significantly worsened the prognosis for patients (and caused potentially life-threatening side effects like white cell crashes), and it was eliminated from the cocktails. Now it’s used almost exclusively on animals. Its use as a cutting agent in cocaine is apparently a recent (and evolving) phenomenon, as this fascinating 2010 piece from The Stranger describes in great detail — among other things, levamisole is virtually undetectable, adds significant bulk to crack (while surviving the purification process), and may accelerate cocaine’s potency. And if you scan back through Google news since the mid-1990s, you can track the growing estimates of the presence of levamisole in the American coke supply, from around 30 percent in 2005 to current estimates of 80 percent or more.
And to think that some people insist that our War on Drugs doesn’t produce measurable results.