ScienceDaily reports that several people are suffering from skin necrosis related to adultered cocaine. Updated ScienceDaily story here. Good Morning America report about topic here. January 2010 article in Time magazine about the same phenomenon here.
It seems that the dealers are cutting cocaine with a medication called levamisole, which is an antihelminthic and cancer treatment that was taken off the market in 2003 due to serious side effects. Supposedly, levamisole increases the high experienced by cocaine users by increasing dopamine in the user’s body. Andrew Koppel, the son of news anchor Ted Koppel, died from a multi-drug overdose and was found to have levamisole in his body.
Levamisole was found in 70% of cocaine confiscated by the DEA in 2009 and in 82% of seized cocaine according to an April 2011 DEA report.
Although levamisole is not available for human use, it is reportedly still popular as a deworming agent by veterinarians.
I guess we can now cross “helminth infections” off of the differential diagnosis in cocaine users.