New Strain of Cocaine Causes Flesh Rot
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New Strain of Cocaine Causes Flesh Rot


As if you needed another reason to be grateful you’re over that whole cocaine thing, Design & Trend magazine is reporting on how coke in NYC and LA is being cut with a veterinary drug called levamisole. That particular drug is used to deworm cattle, pigs and sheep, and, even more terrifyingly, can “cause the skin on the nose, ears and cheeks to rot off.” Though NYC and LA are the primary cities mentioned, it’s been estimated that more than 80 percent of America’s cocaine supply currently contains it, including that found in other locations around America.

Horror Movie Side Effects

In a case study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Dr. Noah Craft, a dermatologist with the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, discusses six cocaine users who have recently developed “dark purple patches of dying flesh.” Apparently the injuries are triggered by an immune-system reaction to levamisole, which “attacks the blood vessels supplying the skin,” and without blood, the skin “starves, suffocates and eventually rots off.”

Although it seems that some people might be at higher risk for getting an attack of the flesh rot than others, Craft is careful to note that the drug’s horrible effects don’t discriminate based on race, creed or color. Anyone who dabbles in coke is putting themselves at risk; as he puts it, “Rich or poor, black or white.”

Risky Short Cuts

And according to an April 2011 report by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, 82% of seized coke contains levamisole. Why dealers  are trying to “stretch their stash” with this stuff instead of using more traditional fillers like baking soda is unclear, but research in rats suggests that the drug actually works on the same brain receptors as coke; i.e., “it might be added to enhance or extend the cocaine’s euphoric effects on the cheap.”

Once the drug is cleared from the body, the “wounds do heal, leaving behind a shiny scar,” but not everyone is spared; this type of skin rot is fatal in some cases. Craft actually likens it to HIV, saying that about “10 percent of those patients will die from severe infections. They may be walking around like a time bomb.”

Aghghghhghg make it stop. Ugh. Just ugh. Like I said, aren’t you happy you stopped doing the white stuff? You should be. No flesh-eating skin rot for you!

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About Author

Laura Barcella is a documentary researcher, author, freelance writer and ghostwriter from Washington, DC. Her writing has also appeared in TIME, Marie Claire, Salon, Esquire, Elle, Refinery29, AlterNet, The Village Voice, Cosmopolitan, The Chicago Sun-Times, Time Out New York, BUST, ELLE Girl, NYLON and Her book credits include Know Your Rights: A Modern Kid's Guide to the American Constitution, Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World, Popular: The Ups and Downs of Online Dating from the Most Popular Girl in New York City, Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop and The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About…Before It’s Too Late.