Can Cocaine Make Your Ears Rot?


Just in case you needed another reason not
to do drugs, cocaine is now being mixed with something that can make your skin rot (especially
your ear lobes.) I’m Anna Rothschild and this is Gross Science. Illegal drugs are often cut, or mixed, with
other substances. This is usually done to increase profits for the traffickers—allowing
them to make the same amount of money while giving away less of the pure product. Cocaine
has been mixed with lots of different things. Everything from powdered caffeine to white
flour. But today, it’s being cut with something totally disgusting: a deworming drug, called
levamisole. Levamisole was first developed as a prescription
drug in the 1960’s, and was used to treat different types of worm infections in both
humans and livestock. And it worked really well. In the 70s doctors actually started
using it to treat inflammatory diseases and certain types of cancer, too. And that’s
when they discovered that some patients treated with levamisole had pretty serious side effects. The drug destroyed the patients’ white blood
cells, making them susceptible to dangerous bacterial infections. But that’s not all.
Some patients’ skin started dying. When tissue or organs start dying it’s called
“necrosis,” and it especially affected the ears of people on levamisole. The drug has since been banned from use in
humans (but not in livestock) in the US and Canada. But recently it’s started making
a resurgence…in cocaine. In 2009, authorities estimated that it was in about 69% of the
cocaine seized in the US. And people who’ve done cocaine are coming into emergency rooms
showing levamisole’s side effects. Now, no one is quite sure why producers are
adding levamisole to cocaine. It’s actually way more expensive than most of the stuff
people usually mix with it. One idea is that it looks like cocaine, and acts a bit like
a stimulant, so it’s easy to fool buyers into thinking they’ve gotten a pure product.
Also, there’s some research indicating that it might increase the addictiveness of cocaine—though
that was just one study, and it wasn’t done in humans. Honestly, levamisole is not the only reason
to stay away from coke. Cocaine is one of the most common causes of heart attacks in
young people, and it can happen to first time users. But if that’s not enough to make
you think twice, maybe the thought of rotting earlobes will. Ew.

39 Comments

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *