By David Futch
Looks like nose candy and freebase users can expect some side effects from the cocaine supplied by their local dealer, especially if they live in Los Angeles or New York City. Drug dealers are cutting cocaine with levamisole, used for deworming livestock.
Doctors at LA BioMed at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA are warning cocaine users about tainted white powder that's damaging people's faces who snort or smoke it. Truly gross:
Nose, ears and cheeks can develop ugly purple swatches of dead skin, doctors caution.
On the other hand, tapeworms will never be a problem.
A report published online in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology said six patients developed purple-colored patches of necrotic skin on their ears, nose, cheeks and other parts of their body and, in some instances, suffered permanent scarring after they had used cocaine.
Doctors in San Francisco had previously reported two similar cases there. Others have also reported on users of contaminated cocaine who developed a related life-threatening immune-system disorder called agranulocytosis, which kills 7 percent to 10 percent of patients.
The U.S. Department of Justice has reported that up to 70 percent of cocaine in the U.S. is contaminated with levamisole, which is cheap, widely available and commonly used for deworming livestock.
Levamisole had been prescribed for humans in the past but was discontinued after developing side effects similar to those found in the cocaine users.
"We believe these cases of skin reactions and illnesses linked to contaminated cocaine are just the tip of the iceberg in a looming public health problem posed by levamisole," said Dr. Noah Craft, who is a principal researcher at Los Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed) and author of the report in the Journal.
Craft said he and other physicians were initially baffled by the severity of the skin damage. He's a member of a team of doctors who advise Logical Images, a company that developed a software program, called VisualDx, for diagnosing skin diseases and other conditions.
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During one of their conference calls in May 2010, Craft said they began discussing the skin damage seen in emergency rooms in New York and Los Angeles and realized they were all seeing similar patterns and that the one common thread was the use of cocaine prior to the development of the skin damage.
The cases were pooled and added into the professional database immediately so that other physicians across the US were then able to see this new diagnosis.
"We have had several more cases since we wrote this report," he says. "In one of the more interesting ones, the patient used cocaine again and developed the same skin reaction again. He then switched drug dealers and the problem cleared up."
There you go. If your dealer is stepping on your stuff, find another dealer. Here's another idea for coke heads, from long ago and far, far away: Just Say No.