COCAINE users are being warned their skin and genitals could ROT away because the drug is being laced with dangerous cattle de-wormer.
Around two thirds of the Class A drug smuggled into Britain is cut with levamisole, which is fed to cows and horses.
The news comes as The Sun launches its End Of The Line campaign to raise awareness of the devastating effect the drug can have on users’ mental and physical health.
Cocaine use has doubled in the UK over the last five years, and use among young people is surging, with 20 per cent of 16 – 24-year-olds taking it in the last year.
Cocaine used to arrive in the UK from South America in pure form, but drug gangs now cut the product before it is shipped.
Levamisole is cheap in countries such as Colombia and Venezuela and acts as a stimulant so it’s easy to disguise to users.
Have you or your family been affected by cocaine? Tell us your story by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
It was used to treat arthritis and bowel cancer in the past, but it was banned for use by humans in 2000.
This was due to the severe side effects, including damaging white blood cells so badly that it causes skin rotting.
Now, it’s only supposed to be used in veterinary medicine to kill parasitic worms.
But there have been a number of reported cases where people have been left with rotting skin after taking cocaine that’s been mixed with the chemical.
Doctors in Colombia published a report in BMJ Case Reports of 11 patients who had all taken cocaine-levamisole that had caused parts of their face, limbs, buttocks and stomach to rot away.
For three of them, the blood supply to the genitals had been cut off – causing the skin to turn black and die.
The group were aged between 31 and 39, nine of them were men and all of them had been using cocaine for more than two years.
Experts said that cases had risen due to the use of cocaine mixed with the chemical, and as well as the skin concerns, they also noted joint and lung conditions.
They were treated with steroids and after quitting drugs, all of the patients were able to recover.
In another case, a 42-year-old woman went to see her doctor in the Netherlands complaining of ulcerating sores on her legs and face.
She persistently denied substance abuse but after testing her hair for toxins, medics discovered she had been taking cocaine cut with levamisole.
In another instance, in Texas, USA, a 68-year-old woman went to doctors with a blood-filled blister on the end of her nose while her forearms and face were covered in fleshy sores.
Tests revealed she had been taking cocaine laced with levamisole and doctors diagnosed her with vasculitis – an inflammation of the blood vessels.
She was told to stop using the drugs and her condition cleared up in six months.
End Of The Line
Cocaine use is reaching epidemic levels in Britain, with the UK branded the ‘Coke capital’ of Europe.
Use has doubled in the last five years, and with young people the numbers are even worse.
A staggering one in five 16-to-24-year-olds have taken cocaine in the last year.
That’s why The Sun has launched its End Of The Line campaign, calling for more awareness around the drug.
Cocaine use can cause mental health problems such as anxiety and paranoia, while doctors have linked the rise in cheap, potent coke to an increase in suicide rates.
People from all walks of life, from builders and labourers to celebrities like Jeremy McConnell – who is backing our campaign – have fallen foul of its lure.
It’s an issue that is sweeping the UK and, unless its tackled now, means a mental health crisis is imminent.
Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and clinical director of Patient.info, says people need to know about the risks they are taking when using coke.
She said: “When you buy recreational drugs, you’re not just putting yourself at risk from the drug itself.
“Unscrupulous drug dealers often ‘cut’ their drug with other, cheaper products to increase their profits even further. And they don’t care how dangerous those other products are.
“Levamisole is one such product – it’s used to deworm cattle but used to be used to treat cancer in humans before it was taken off the market because of safety concerns.
“It can cause complete collapse of your immune system and even cause your skin to rot.
“There is no cure for either of these side effects – people just have to be admitted to hospital and given therapy to try and prevent life-threatening complications.”
Politicians have previously warned over the dangers of levamisole-laced cocaine making its way to the UK.
Lib Dem MP and former Crime Prevention Minister, Norman Baker, told The Sun in 2014: “Those who choose to use cocaine and think they know what they’re doing are playing Russian Roulette with their lives.
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“They have no idea what is in them. Who wants cattle dewormer up their nose?”
Almost all cocaine and crack sold on the street is diluted by at least one of other chemical, studies have shown.
They are often local anaesthetics such as benzocaine, lidocaine and phenacetin, but can also include paracetamol or lactose.
From the moment cocaine is snorted, smoked or injected, it starts wreaking havoc on the body.
It creates a euphoric high, but this is short-lived, lasting between 20 to 30 minutes – leaving users desperately chasing the same high.
The more you use it, the more your brain will adapt to it, meaning you need a stronger dose to feel the same euphoria the next time around.
Aside from rotting flesh, using cocaine can have other long-term impacts on your health.
Dr Jarvis added: “It can cause heart attacks even in young, otherwise healthy people; seizures and brain damage; and severe mental health problems, including paranoid ideas.”
Yet worryingly, more than one in ten British adults have tried cocaine, double the EU average and use among young people is surging, with 20 percent of 16-to-24-year-olds taking it in the past year.
Both had traces of cocaine in their systems when they killed themselves.
This is why The Sun is calling for the End Of The Line.
Am I addicted to cocaine? The signs and symptoms of addiction
Cocaine is highly addictive and what can start out as a one-off can quickly turn into a habit.
Regular use of the drug changes the way the brain releases dopamine – a chemical in the brain that makes you feel happy.
But the high is short-lived so often users will take more to feel the desired effects again.
Over time, the body and brain can become too used to cocaine that it builds up a tolerance, which means you have to take more to feel the same high.
If you recognise any of the following behaviours in yourself, it might mean you’ve developed an addiction to cocaine:
- You’re taking more of the drug to feel the effects
- When you stop or reduce your dosage, you feel agitated, restless and depressed
- You’re struggling to cut down or control how much you take, even if you try to
- You spend a lot of time thinking about and trying to get cocaine
- You’re disregarding family, friends and work in favour of taking cocaine
- You know the damage it’s doing to you, but you can’t stop taking it
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