Levamisole & Cocaine

What’s a drug used to de-worm pets doing in much of our nation’s cocaine supply? The experts don’t know, but they are aware of its potentially deadly consequences.

A drug approved to treat cancer and used to de-worm animals is being added to the nation’s cocaine supply, and public health officials are puzzled as to why it’s happening, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal.

On Dec. 18, 2010, the Center for Disease Control released its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) focusing on the devastating effects levamisole can have, including a potentially fatal immune system disorder called agranulocytosis. The report shows that 21 cases – one leading to death – were linked to the use of cocaine in a 20-month period.


Levamisole in Cocaine

The experts aren’t clear on why the U.S. cocaine supply is being cut with levamisole, which is often used as a de-worming drug by veterinarians, but the CDC notes that approximately 69 percent of cocaine seized on its way into the country contains the substance, according to Drug Enforcement Agency figures. Some speculate that cocaine producers or suppliers think that the agents enhance the drug’s effects or limit its side effects.

“Cocaine achieves its psychoactive effects by increasing dopamine concentrations in the euphoric centers of the brain, and animal studies have found that levamisole also increases dopamine levels in these regions,” according to a paper produced by the Annals of Internal Medicine and cited by the Wall Street Journal. “We speculate that levamisole may potentiate the euphoric effects of cocaine by further increasing brain dopamine levels.”

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