Tainted Cocaine Causing Brain Damage

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A dangerous new substance that’s used as an anti-worming agent has been found in recent cocaine samples taken by Swiss researchers, according to a report by Big Think.

Cocaine is the second-most popular drug worldwide, and it’s almost always “cut” with another drug or substance so that the drug is more profitable. In some cases, medications like fentanyl are added to cocaine to make it more addictive – but it’s also more dangerous. Usually, it’s baking soda or ammonia that’s added with the simple goal of thinning out the drug content.

Now, however, two studies from the University of Zurich (UZH) discovered that levamisole, a powerful animal anti-worming agent, has been turning up in the cocaine supply. Scientists speculate that it is being used by chemists to make the effects of cocaine last longer.

It’s also possible that it’s leaving brain damage in regular cocaine users. The long-term effects are impaired cognitive performance and the thinning out the prefrontal cortex. Levamisole is also leading to changes in blood counts and blood vessels, and in animals, it has been shown to attack the nervous system.

Two Studies Show Damage From Levamisole

A team from the Psychiatric Hospital and the Institute of Forensic Medicine identified people who had ingested the levamisole-tainted cocaine through a hair drug test. The higher levamisole levels in their body, the more they exhibited impairment of cognitive functions.

A second study had users who took the drug with levamisole in it had MRI’s to view the effects of the drug on their brain. The MRI study showed that people who ingested the cocaine with a high level of levamisole had a very clear thinning of the prefrontal cortex. This finding is significant because it’s the part of the brain responsible for executive functions.

Where is the Brain Damage?

Executive function is the part of the brain that provides self-control, working memory, and mental flexibility. Most of these functions are needed when you are problem-solving, and without them, people make poor choices.