A recent issue of the British Medical Journal described a grim case study in which a woman’s skin appeared to blacken and rot. Because of her cocaine abuse, the 42-year-old British woman had avoided seeking medical attention after several months of severe joint pain and abdominal cramping. But she started to become more concerned when she found dark, painful lesions across her body. After her ear turned black and turned numb, she knew she would need to seek help. Read on to learn more about the serious side effects of cocaine abuse.
The Dangerous Side Effects of Cocaine
At the hospital, doctors found that the lesions were caused by vasculitis, a type of blood vessel inflammation. This particular form of vasculitis stems from consumption of levamisole, a drug typically used to kill off worms in the bovine intestinal tract.
Over the last decade, more and more Central and South American cocaine suppliers have been cutting their product with levamisole. Some areas have seen levamisole concentrations up to 90 percent, although most supplies are not nearly so hazardous. Around 80 percent of cocaine shipments seized by the British government in 2014 contained the de-worming drug, while 73 percent of shipments in the United States contain the dangerous additive.
Much More At Stake
Although the gruesome incident has made headlines across the globe, the risk of actually contracting a similar condition is relatively uncommon. “Given the fact that many people use cocaine, of which large percentages are adulterated with levamisole, our case is rare,” said Dr. Lindy-Anne Korswagen, who contributed to the BMJ report. “The risk of side effects such as agranulocytosis or levamisole-induced vasculopathy with skin ulcers and serious organ damage is small. Between 2011 and 2014, there were 210 cases reported worldwide, of which three have died.” As the number of drug overdoses climbs, however, these incidents are certain to spike as well.
Since the drug is present in such low concentrations, people who use large quantities of cocaine are most susceptible to these types of ailments. The generalized side effects of cocaine addiction presents much greater dangers than outlier conditions such as these. Heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney damage, respiratory failure, malnutrition, psychosis and depression are sadly common among people who regularly abuse this drug.
While high doses are the primary risk factor for cocaine users, cutting-edge research suggests that some people may be more genetically predisposed to these kinds of devastating side effects. “The literature suggests that some patients have a unique genetic predisposition that increases their risk of toxicity,” said Dr. Robert Hoffman, a toxicity expert from the New York University Langone Medical Center who specializes in levamisole poisoning. “There is always some consideration for dose, but it is a combination of dose plus susceptibility that sets the risk.”
Call Our Team
Even though the risk of such extreme situations is small, cocaine can still destroy a person’s physical and mental health. If you or a loved one is struggling with the side effects of cocaine dependency, please seek help before it’s too late. Call the professionals at CARUS Recovery at 877-225-7774 to learn more about the benefits of our intensive addiction recovery program.