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Surprising Science

More Bad News From the World of Cocaine

You many have seen the story a couple weeks ago that indicated most of us handle cocaine a lot more than we’re aware—thanks to the drug trade and users using dollar bills as “paraphernalia,” researchers found that up to 90 percent of American paper money shows traces of coke, especially in large cities. And then this week the AP reported that, according to Drug Enforcement Administration documents it obtained, a third of the cocaine seized in the U.S. is tainted with a livestock drug.

It’s called Levamisole, and its primary use is as a deworming medication for livestock. But cocaine spiked with Levamisole gives a more intense high, which makes it more attractive and more deadly. It also reportedly weakens the immune system and has already killed three people in the U.S. and Canada.

The fact that many of the products offered by the vast, underground trade created by America’s vain War on Drugs are laced with additives that make them more addictive and dangerous should come as no surprise. But I’d never heard of Levamisole, and what’s worse, most doctors haven’t either. The AP quotes a health expert saying that most American doctors don’t know this is going on.

And they’re left at a loss for what to do. Not only are public health officials unable to regulate illegal drugs, but they also don’t have channels to reach people with warnings. Unless there’s somebody on stage telling you not to take the brown acid, this kind of information has to spread virally through drug users. That takes time, and it leaves users at a loss for whom and what to believe.


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