Seized cocaine cut with potentially dangerous animal deworming medication

An animal deworming medication that can destroy white blood cells in humans was used as a cutting agent in cocaine seized in Drew County, according to a State Crime Lab report dated June 17.

The State Crime Lab found levamisole, a drug sometimes used as an animal dewormer, combined with cocaine base.

"Cocaine tainted with levamisole has been reported to have been found in other areas of the country and is now being increasingly seen in Arkansas," said 10th Judicial District Prosecutor Thomas Deen. "Levamisole can wipe out white blood cells in humans, and has resulted in serious illness that resembles a rapidly growing infection."

Deen said the individual from whom the tainted cocaine was seized likely had no knowledge that it had been cut with the animal deworming medication.

Experts believe the levamisole is added in cocaine-producing countries, like Columbia but aren't sure why.

"The vast majority of the cocaine in this nation is produced in other countries and that's likely were it was diluted," Deen said.

Public health agencies across the country began issuing health advisories and alerts as early as September 2005 and as recent as June 2009 about the practice of cutting cocaine with levamisole and the effect the medication can have on humans.

According to a flyer distributed in June by the Seattle & King County Public Health Department, the animal deworming medication can be found in both powder and crack cocaine and the drug user will not be able to detect it; it will smell, taste and look the same.

Symptoms include high fever, chills, weakness, swollen glands, painful sores, a rapidly progressing infection that won't heal, and thrush.

"Cocaine users experiencing symptoms should immediately consult a physician," Deen said.

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