Several doctors across the United States have been able to link cases of rotten skin to cocaine that have been laced with the veterinary drug levamisole. There have been incidents observed in New York and Los Angeles, where patients suffer from rotten skin in the nose, ears and cheeks.
ABC News reports that a case study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology documented six cocaine users who had decaying, dark purple patches of flesh. The occurrence of rotting flesh has been associated by dermatologist Dr. Noah Craft, as well as several other doctors, to cocaine that has been tainted with levamisole, a drug that is used to deworm cattle, pigs and sheep. Its side effect, when consumed by humans, is the rotting of flesh in the nose, ears and cheeks.
The symptoms may appear days after using the tainted drugs, due to an immune reaction that attacks blood vessels which supply the skin, causing the skin to suffocate.
Dr. Craft, who is with the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, commented: “It’s probably quite a big problem, and we just don’t know yet how big a problem it really is… It’s important for people to know it’s not just in New York and L.A. It’s in the cocaine supply of the entire U.S.”
Unfortunately, a report released in April by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration revealed that 82% of the cocaine seized through the agency’s various drug-busting operations contained levamisole. The reason for its use as an “extender” for cocaine by drug dealers is unclear, although there is speculation that it is being done in order to enhance the effects of cocaine, without necessarily making it too expensive.