Flesh-Melting Cocaine Also Destroys Your Immune System

Hey, remember that report from earlier in the summer about a veterinary de-worming agent called levamisole that South American drug traffickers were using to cut their cocaine with, that had an unfortunate side-effect in humans which caused them to develop "patches of blackened, dying skin on the ears, face, trunk or extremities?" Well, turns out that's a real thing! And not, like, some elaborate government propaganda campaign dreamed up by Nancy Reagan on a set visit to Diff'rent Strokes back in 1983.

Scientific American has followed up on the outbreak, and reports that three-quarters of all cocaine seized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is now cut with the compound. The drug, which was used in humans in the 1970s to treat cancer, was found to improve mood and cause insomnia, aping the effects of actual coke. Noah Craft, a dermatologist and author of the original paper on the topic, says he's seeing "one case per month...It's become almost routine." (So, two new cases I guess? That's two too many!)

Besides the scabs, which can result in permanent scarring and require reconstructive surgery, levamisole can also result in a sometimes fatal reduction in white blood cells — the result of yet another allergic reaction to the drug, which in this case causes the immune system to attack bone marrow instead of the skin.

Basically, if you do coke, you run the risk of becoming the Phantom of the Bathroom Stall, emerging only in the cover of darkness to run some tap water down the giant hole in your face where your nose once was. Don't do it. [Scientific American, photo via Shutterstock.com]