According to an article in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, doctors across the country are finding numerous instances of a skin disease, known as purpura, linked to the consumption of cocaine.
Over the past few years, cocaine manufacturers have increasingly cut their product with a drug called levamisole. Use for that purpose has skyrocketed, with the drug being found in only 30% of confiscated cocaine in 2008, but climbing to 70% in 2009, according to the DEA. Levamisole is a de-worming drug used by veterinarians, and was formerly used to treat colon cancer. It is known to increase dopamine levels, triggering the brain’s pleasure center. Experts at the DEA report that it is added to cocaine because it is a cheap way to dilute the drug to street strength, while adding some enhanced effects.
Purpura occurs when capillaries in the skin are blocked, cutting off the blood flow. It causes skin death, which creates purplish, crusty areas of dead skin and is extremely painful. The lesions can lead to serious infection. This form of purpura appears most commonly around the ears, and its presence indicates the need of follow-up on the possibility of cocaine use. Both inhaling and smoking cocaine cut with levamisole can cause the problem.