Monday, October 5, 2009

SAMHSA Warns About Deadly Cocaine Cutting Agent

According to a SAMHSA alert, substance abuse treatment providers, clinicians, outreach workers, and individuals who abuse cocaine need to be aware of the following:

A dangerous substance, levamisole, is showing up with increasing frequency in illicit cocaine powder and crack cocaine. Levamisole can severely reduce the number of white blood cells, a problem called agranulocytosis. THIS IS A VERY SERIOUS ILLNESS THAT NEEDS TO BE TREATED AT A HOSPITAL. If you use cocaine, watch out for:
* high fever, chills, or weakness
* swollen glands
* painful sores (mouth, anal)
* any infection that won’t go away or gets 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).”

SAMHSA said that about 20 cases of the dangerous blood disorder agranulocytosis -- characterized by decreased white blood-cell counts -- have been linked to use of cocaine cut with levamisole. More cases are expected based on drug-sample testing that shows increased use of levamisole as a cutting agent. In Seattle, for example, 80 percent of individuals who tested positive for cocaine also tested positive for levamisole. Levamisole is not approved for human use but is used to treat parasitic infections in cattle, sheep and swine.

BCI staff have learned from SAMHSA that one case was in fact in Delaware. Our staff on the needle exchange are warning people. This is very serious for our HIV+ and other immuno-compromised clients.

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