Officials Warn that Cocaine Additive Could Cause National Health Epidemic

Medical News Today reports a disturbing new trend: Contaminated, flesh-eating cocaine.
Eighty-two percent of seized cocaine in the United States contains levamisole, according to a recent report by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Levamisole, a cheap and widely available drug used to de-worm livestock. In humans, the drug can rot the skin off noses, ears and cheeks.

Considering the rampant use, officials are concerned this additive could result in a tremendous health epidemic in the United States. Patients who smoked or snorted cocaine diluted with the veterinary drug developed serious skin reactions. In a case study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Dr. Noah Craft of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center describes six cocaine users recently plagued by the dark purple patches of dying flesh. And while they happened to hail from the country's coastlines, the problem is national.

Dr. Craft said these skin reactions have been misdiagnosed as vasculitis (a rare blood vessel autoimmune disorder), and that both the public and health professionals should be educated about the additional risks associated with cocaine use. As if rotting skin wasn't enough, levamisole also prevents the bone marrow from producing infection-fighting white blood cells, and could be fatal.Levamisole is listed under the DEA’s Drugs and Chemicals of Concern.