A report came out today that could (and probably should) affect the New Year's Eve "skiing" plans of many a Craigslister this year: It seems that most of the cocaine in this country is now stepped on with a deworming drug meant for horses and other animals that is causing catastrophic illness in some users.
"Levamisole can significantly reduce the number of white blood cells in the body, a condition called agranulocytosis. Symptoms include fever, swollen glands, painful sores in the mouth and anus, and an infection that won't go away. In San Francisco, patients with levamisole poisoning also are getting serious skin conditions that make their skin look black."
So far, most cases of serious illness have been identified in the San Francisco area, where 90 percent of cocaine users tested were found to have the drug in their system, but there's plenty of reason to think it's everywhere.
"The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month released a report noting that 69 percent of cocaine recently seized in the United States had been tainted with levamisole, and illness from exposure to the drug has been found in at least four states."
Experts think cocaine-makers are using the drug as their go-to filler now because it has been shown to increase the effects of cocaine in animal studies (a theory which evokes the curious and fascinating concept of drug lords subscribing to medical journals). Levamisole poisoning is more likely to affect women, and more likely to occur when the cocaine was smoked in crack form. So, yeah, don't do drugs, kids! And since we all know it's covered in the stuff, you may also want to avoid licking paper money for a while, in order to be totally safe.