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cocaine rot woman
The 42-year old woman who tested positive for levamisole-contaminated cocainevia British Medical Journal

Cocaine could make your skin rot and turn black

The continued use of a cattle dewormer called levamisole as a cutting agent is said to be causing severe skin complications for some users

Cocaine (the helluva drug) enjoyed a fantastic reputation in the 1970s, but has endured numerous bashes to its reputation in the decades following. Despite any negative press – stuff like it makes you unable to read other peoples’ emotions – Brits are still doing so much of it that it’s in the nation’s water supply. But would you still be so keen to lock yourself in a city centre Wetherspoons cubicle and do horrifically impure coke if it made your skin rot and turn black? Maybe don’t answer – a deomorphine called krokodil managed to get pretty big in Russia and that makes your legs actually fall off. Is modern life that bad?

recent study published in the British Medical Journal describes the case of a 42-year old woman suffering from severe skin lesions, a result of taking levamisole-contaminated cocaine that they‘d found present in her strands of hair. Levamisole is a cutting agent predominantly used to deworm cattle, a substance that experts estimate is now present in 80 per cent of cocaine because when ingested it may slightly replicate the effects of snorting a line of coke, unlike baking soda which does nothing. The study authors state that diagnosis and treatment after exposure to levamisole is tricky and requires complete abstinence from the drug. This patient fortunately recovered after two months.

Given that drug use doesn’t appear to be declining anytime soon, the continued dangers of taking drugs bought from a black market opens up an argument for legalisation. Human desire to get loaded – whatever the reasons – isn’t going to go away. Lethal "Superman" pills killed four Britons last year and now contaminated coke is said to be causing skin rot. People are going to keep doing drugs - we should maybe look at better ways to make it safe.