Tainted cocaine

Okay, let's just get it right out there up front - no one thinks doing crack or cocaine is good for you. Nope, no one. Not me, not even the people who use it.

However, if a huge percentage of the cocaine/crack sold in this country is being adulterated with a potentially lethal addition, shouldn't people (including the doctors wondering what the heck is going on) be warned?

At the clinic where I work, addiction is a daily battle for our patients. Whether it's alcohol, cigarettes, crack/cocaine, meth or heroin, we see people struggle to quit, suffer unspeakable side effects and die the kinds of deaths you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. Despite the deadly lure of these substances, there are those people who are able to make changes - sometimes small, sometimes huge. Sometimes they haven't got that fishhook of addiction firmly set yet. Maybe they can wiggle off before it's too late. Sometimes, even after decades of use, you can tell a person something about a drug in a way they can finally hear it - finally feel it.

The news is, as much as 30% of cocaine/crack in this country is now tainted with a bizarre substance: levamisole. Levamisole is an animal medication, normally used to treat intestinal worms. Rarely has it been used in people as an adjuvant treatment for cancers. It's a drug that can cause a total loss of your germ-fighting white blood cells. People typically die from agranulocytosis - the medical name for when your bone marrow fails to make these crucial cells. Overwhelming and bizarre infections can result.

As the AP reports, "I would think it would be fair to say the vast majority of doctors in the United States have no idea this is going on," said Eric Lavonas, assistant director of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center in Denver, where as much as half of the cocaine is believed to contain levamisole. "You can't diagnose a disease you've never heard of."

Everyone who does the kind of work that I do has cared for the patients who continue to use even after liver failure from the alcohol use, even after massive abscesses from injecting. I worked with a great nurse practitioner colleague who used to tell patients, hand on a shoulder, leaning forward, dead serious, "Honey, if you can't quit, it's time to find another drug. This one's killing you."

Pass the word - even if you're an occasional user, even more than before, crack/cocaine kills.

What do you think? Should the public, including addicts and doctors, be warned? Feel free to forward this info along to others. Share in the comments section and keep up on the latest health issues in the news, and healthcare reform insanity/hilarity by signing up for a Doc Gurley RSS feed with the tiny orange button at the top.

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Your Brain On Cocaine
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Tainted cocaine
Okay, let's just get it right out there up front - no one thinks doing crack or cocaine is good for you. Nope, no one. Not me, not even the people who use it. However, if a huge percentage of the cocaine/crack sold in this country is being adulterated with a potentially lethal addition, shouldn't people (including the doctors wondering what the heck is going on) be warned?
More...