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News Articles: Tainted cocaine in Maritimes: officials
Crystal Meth Society Cocaine users in the Maritimes are being warned that they are likely ingesting a harmful medication used to deworm livestock, says the Canadian Harm Reduction Network.

Between 60 and 90 per cent of the cocaine in North America is being cut with the drug levamisole, network director Walter Cavalieri said. Levamisole, an anti-parasitic drug, was withdrawn for human use in Canada in 2003.

Cavalieri said cocaine on the East Coast comes from the same sources, so the percentage of contaminated cocaine would likely be the same.

Levamisole is thought to increase the high for users, and cocaine manufacturers use it because it's cheap. But, Cavalieri said, it can reduce white blood cell counts leading to serious health effects.

People who ingest cocaine cut with levamisole can develop agranulocytosis, a condition that makes the immune system incapable of fighting off infections.

The visible effects of ingesting levamisole are scabby bruises, Cavalieri said.

"The fingers, the ears, the nose first it looks like a bruise and then gets darker, and it may form scabs. The other things that we are seeing that are not visible are fevers, chills, sore throat, pneumonia, shortness of breathe, coughing," he said.

Dozens of drug users across Canada have fallen ill after using tainted cocaine.

"If you find yourself with these symptoms it is important that you see your health care provider and tell them that you are using cocaine and that the cocaine may be contaminated, or laced, or cut with this particular drug called levamisole. And they need to know that so they can look for that as a source of your problem."

In September, the Cape Breton Regional Police seized seven kilograms of cocaine on a Marine Atlantic ferry.

They don't normally test for other ingredients because convictions for cocaine use only require proof of the illegal drug. They're making an exception in this case

"We will certainly because we are aware of it keep our eyes and ears opened," spokeswoman Desiree Vassallo said.

"But, in the meantime, we have committed to sending away a sample of our most recent cocaine seizure for quantitative testing to see if there is anything in it at this point."

Last November, U.S. health authorities launched a health alert about the dangers of the blend after finding about 70 per cent of cocaine tested by drug enforcement authorities in July 2009 contained levamisole.

Dozens of drug users across Canada have fallen ill after using tainted cocaine.


 
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