|Typical example of lesion|
Drug dealers constantly look for ways to increase profits; traditionally they maximize profits by "stepping on" or adulterating drugs. Coke dealers are now choosing to adulterate cocaine with levamisole because it can cause a small high that adds to the coke's kick. Unfortunately, levamisole, a drug used by veterinarians to de-worm livestock and once used by regular doctors to treat colon cancer, devastates blood vessels under the skin, causing patches to turn black and rot off. The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology published an article entitled "Characteristic purpura of the ears, vasculitis, and neutropenia – a potential public health epidemic associated with levamisole-adulterated cocaine" in June; only the abstract is available for free.
This problem has been reported in New York, California, New Mexico, Delaware, Washington State, and Canada. In January 2010, Time reported that 90 percent of cocaine in San Francisco and 80 percent in Seattle was cut with levamisole. This means it could also happen in Alaska, and so it's of concern to us as well.
Researchers have noted that when the patients stop using the cocaine, the symptoms stop spreading and can be treated successfully with steroids or blood thinners, although some patients recover without pharmaceutical intervention. Thus the necrotitis is not like an MRSA staph infection, which can spread on its own despite medical treatment.
Another complication of using levamisole-cut cocaine, thankfully much rarer, is a life-threatening immune-system disorder called agranulocytosis, which kills up to 10 percent of its victims by suppressing their ability to create infection-fighting white blood cells. In the summer of 2008, a man and woman, both in their 20s and both cocaine users, were separately admitted to a Canadian hospital with unremitting fevers, flu-like symptoms and dangerously low white-blood-cell counts. The diagnosis in both cases was agranulocytosis.
In January 2010, Reason Magazine, a libertarian publication, used reports of levamisole contamination to make a pitch for cocaine legalization. Their premise: If coke dealers had to compete for customers in a legal, open market where fraud and negligence are punished not only by law but by the loss of business, it would virtually eliminate the problem. Sorry, but that premise isn't working very well in the banking and airline industries; banks and airlines continue to pile on nitnoid fees regardless of competition or customer input. The mercantile argument clearly has limits.
Legalization is NOT the answer.