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Tainted Supply: Cocaine Laced With Levamisole Keeps Turning Up

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #621)
Consequences of Prohibition
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

Back in September, we reported on the appearance of cocaine cut with levamisole, a veterinary de-worming agent, and its links to at least three deaths in the US and Canada from a disease caused by levamisole, agranulocytosis. At that time, the DEA reported that levamisole was turning up in about 30% of the cocaine it sampled.

DEA levamisole findings
Now, the DEA says that figure is up to 70%. While the number of fatalities has remained unchanged since last fall, new cases of agranulocystosis continue to appear in North American drug users. Earlier this month, authorities in Winnipeg, Manitoba, reported that two cocaine users contracted the disease there and that additional cases had been reported in neighboring Alberta.

Levamisole suppresses immune function and the body's ability to fight off even minor infections, and people who ingest levamisole-tainted cocaine can be faced with quickly-developing, life-threatening infections. Agranulocytosis is a condition of suppressed immune systems. Its symptoms include chills or high fever, weakness, swollen glands, painful sores, sudden or lingering infections, skin infections, abscesses, thrush, and pneumonia.

Cocaine contaminated with levamisole, although not users with agranulocytosis, has also popped up in the last few days in Maine and Ohio. Samples of crack cocaine in Mansfield, Ohio, tested positive late last month. And public health officials reported Tuesday that 30% to 50% of Maine cocaine samples tested positive.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) put out an alert late in September warning of the tainted cocaine, but federal authorities have done little publicly since then.

Given the geographically widespread reports of cocaine contaminated with the veterinary drug, it is assumed that levamisole is being added as a cutting agent either in source countries or in transit countries, not by local dealers.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


mlang52 (not verified)

If this is coming from the source, then that is, all more, the reason to regulate and control the contents. As long as the criminals control the content of the bag, there can be no trust. Then again, the way it is now, they will still have plenty of people willing to risk their lives for a high!

Unless legal control is taken of the drugs, it will remain the same. I guess, it could get worse, if more users start dieing. But, then, we know the attitude towards that, as well. I guess some in society would see the "druggies" as rats in the gutter and not worth helping. Will it take a pandemic of user deaths to open their eyes?

Sat, 02/20/2010 - 11:31am Permalink
Moonrider (not verified)

If it is being done at the source, aren't those who traffic in cocaine cutting their own throats by sickening and even killing off their customers? What lucrative business (and we know the cocaine trade is lucrative) deliberately tries to kill their customers?

I'm pro-choice on EVERYTHING!

Sat, 02/20/2010 - 3:25pm Permalink
mlang52 (not verified)

In reply to by Moonrider (not verified)

It does not, all, fit in, does it? I would think it would be bad for the dealers! Maybe the dealers would classify that as "turnover"!?

Sun, 02/21/2010 - 2:06pm Permalink
Anony mouse (not verified)

The government/DEA/whoever are the ones bringing in and distributing it. Whatever their motives, tainting the supply seems logical. It creates fear and paranoia and it kills off the drug addicted, or at best cripples them with medical bills.

Sun, 02/21/2010 - 2:46am Permalink
mlang52 (not verified)

In reply to by Anony mouse (not verified)

The problem I have with that is that it calls for another conspiracy theory! It makes us look like nuts, until it is a proven fact. No doubt, what you say could be true! Trouble is proving it!

Sun, 02/21/2010 - 2:08pm Permalink

Anyone old enough to remember or saavy enough to research know what paraquat was and did to people might agree with you. I've always found that if I had suspicions about something, it has a high possibility of truth. But, whoever is doing this not out for repeat business. Now, I truthfully think that those who're distributing this babby coke aren't really concerned about killing off their repeat business or repeat bizness, just making paper.

So who done it, if not some nut balls in gov't playing God or some fruit sack selling bad crap to kill off those they deem as inferior or as a vengeance on whoever they want to frame, or just kill off as distributing a chemical weapon?

Sun, 02/21/2010 - 11:50pm Permalink
charlotte (not verified)

it's not just the "poors" dying now. dj am had levamisole in his system. both brittany murphy and corey haim had flu-like symptoms before their deaths. although casey johnson supposedly expired due to complications from diabetes, she, too, was a known cocaine user.

Thu, 03/11/2010 - 11:03pm Permalink

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