Cocaine users in the United States may also be ingesting a dangerous drug used to deworm horses, San Francisco health officials say.
The drug, levamisole, can amplify cocaine's effect, but it also reduces white blood cells in humans. Levamisole has killed at least one cocaine user in New Mexico, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it has sickened at least eight in San Francisco. Symptoms include fever, oral and anal sores and virulent infections, United Press International reported.
Not everyone exposed to the drug becomes sick, however. The San Francisco Chronicle noted that 90 percent of 200 people who tested positive for cocaine also tested positive for levamisole in a recent study.
"The big question we have right now is, if 90 percent of cocaine users in San Francisco are positive for levamisole and are being exposed to this compound, then why aren't 90 percent of them in the emergency room with these side effects?" said Kara Lynch, associate head of the chemistry and toxicology lab at San Francisco General.