Tainted Cocaine

Levamisole can cause fatal infections and is a common ingredient in cocaine that is used in the United States.

Cocaine is very addictive and some people we treat claim they were physically and mentally dependent on it after only one use.  We have created special programs for the treatment of cocaine addiction that use a combination of therapy and esteem building outdoor activities to really reach our clients and help them embrace a life free of cocaine use.

A Deadly Cocaine Ingredient

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has issued a rare nationwide public warning about a dangerous chemical that is now found in 70% of cocaine distributed across the US.

SAMHSA has issued a rare nationwide public warning about a dangerous chemical
that is now found in 70% of cocaine distributed across the US.

The chemical, levamisole, is an anti worming drug used primarily for livestock. It is not a substance approved for human consumption and its consumption can lead to a dangerous or fatal condition called agranulocytosis.

What Is Levamisole and What Are the Dangers?

Levamisole is used as a veterinary medication, given primarily to cattle to prevent parasites. Although once a medication given to humans for the same purpose, it is no longer approved for human consumption.

Levamisole reduces the body’s quantity of white blood cells. With a decreased white blood cell count, the body is extremely vulnerable to infections. This blood disorder is called agranulocytosis, and it can be fatal.

SAMHSA has received reports of at least 20 cases of levamisole caused agranulocytosis.

How Widespread Is the Problem?

Levamisole now taints most of the cocaine used in America.

•    Between July and September 2008, the DEA found Levamisole in 30% of cocaine samples. In July 2009, the DEA found the substance in 70% of samples.

•    80% of cocaine users in Seattle Washington tested positive for levamisole (the substance remains detectable in the urine for only a few days)

Why Is It Added to Cocaine?

US drug enforcement officials have concluded that given the widespread distribution of the levamisole tainted cocaine, the adulterant is most likely added in Columbia prior to distribution into North America.

Levamisole is added as a bulking agent, to magnify a quantity of product for sale, and because it is believed to amplify the feel-good effects of cocaine. Levamisole is thought to provoke a dopamine response in the brain, as does cocaine.

What Are the Warning Signs to Watch for?

If you use cocaine, be alert for the following warning signs of agranulocytosis:
•    Swollen glands
•    Skin infections and abscesses
•    Sores on the mouth and anus (painful)
•    High fever with feelings of weakness and chills
•    Infections that don’t get better
•    Thrush (white spots on the tongue, mouth and throat)

Health officials urge anyone who has consumed cocaine (whether smoked, injected or snorted) to get prompt medical attention upon the occurrence of any of the above warning signs.

Although agranulocytosis can cause death, most levamisole exposure patients treated for the condition have made a recovery after careful medical treatment.

Click here to read more about cocaine abuse.

Thanks to Sunrise Recovery Ranch, my daughter was able to get the lasting recovery she deserved from her addiction and her co-occurring mental health disorder. I am super grateful!

– Michelle A.
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  • American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)
  • California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals (CCAPP)
  • Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)