Cocaine Warning: Public Health Alert for Anyone Using Crack or Cocaine

Public Health Alert about Cocaine or Crack Use

Life Threatening Risk: Cocaine Laced with Levamisole

** ALERT **

We always do our best to provide information and help to all of our readers from an unbiased and non judgmental standpoint. In that spirit, we want to make sure that if you or someone you care about is using Cocaine or using Crack that they be aware of the following information and they should seek professional medical help immediately.

Alcohol and other drug programs across California should be on the lookout for a dangerous substance levamisole that is showing up with increasing frequency in illicit cocaine powder and crack cocaine, most recently in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Levamisole is a veterinary anti-parasitic drug and it severely reduces the number of white blood cells in humans leading to an acute condition called agranulocytosis that should be treated at a hospital. Ingesting cocaine mixed with levamisole suppresses immune function and the body’s ability to fight off even minor infections. People who snort, smoke, or inject crack or powder cocaine contaminated by levamisole can experience overwhelming, rapidly-developing, life threatening infections.

Agranulocytosis manifests the following symptoms:

  • high fever, chills, or weakness
  • swollen glands
  • painful sores (mouth and anal)
  • infections that won’t go away or get worse very fast, including sore throat or mouth sores; skin infections; abscesses; thrush (white coating of the mouth, tongue or throat); pneumonia (fever, cough, shortness of breath)

    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) began alerting medical professionals, substance abuse treatment centers, and other public health authorities in September about the risks.

    Used in veterinary medicine, levamisole is currently approved for use in cattle, sheep and swine as an anti-parasitic agent. Formerly used in human medicine for treating autoimmune diseases and cancer, it is no longer approved for human use.

    SAMHSA is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Food and Drug Administration, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and other federal and international organizations, as well as state agencies to monitor the levamisole issue. CDC will publish a case report analysis in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and will work with state health departments to systematically collect information on cocaine-associated agranulocytosis cases. Information from this effort will be used to guide treatment and prevention initiatives to address the public health concern.

    According to the DEA and state testing laboratories, the percentage of cocaine specimens containing levamisole has increased steadily since 2002, with levamisole now found in more than 70 percent of the illicit cocaine analyzed last July. In addition, a recent analysis in Seattle, Washington, found that almost 80 percent of individuals who test positive for cocaine also test positive for levamisole.

    ADP is asking all providers to report suspected and confirmed cases of agranulocytosis associated with cocaine abuse to their local health departments. Cases can also be reported to local Poison Control Centers (1-800-222-1222), which may assist in clinical management and additional reporting. For further medical/technical information, contact Nicholas Reuter, SAMHSA Nicholas.reuter@samhsa.hhs.gov

    This Cocaine Related Health Alert was sent to us to help keep you informed. The SAMHSA stands for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). If you or a loved one need help with cocaine addiction or abuse please call the number on this site, or if you require medical attention contact a medical professional right away.

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