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Cocaine warning issued for West Kootenay/Boundary

A pig dewormer has been detected in a cocaine sample tested in Grand Forks.

ANKORS, a local group that provides drug testing services, has issued a warning about Levamisole.

Drug checking program co-ordinator Amelia Martzke said it is one of the more well-known cuts found in cocaine samples, but it isn’t detected very often.

“This is the first time in quite a while I’ve seen it in the Kootenays,” she said, “but it is known to us as a common adulterant in cocaine samples.”

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Levamisole was formerly used on humans, she said, but is now restricted to veterinary purposes as it can cause agranulocytosis, a reduction in white blood cells that makes people more vulnerable to infection and illness.

However, Martzke added infrequent use doesn’t necessarily pose a high risk. Problems are more commonly seen in people who regularly use contaminated cocaine. It is also more common in people who smoke cocaine or crack cocaine, but can still be seen in those who snort or inject the drug.

Symptoms include feelings of flu or fever, a cough that gets worse, breathing challenges, and black or purple patches that resemble bad bruises on the ears, face, arms, legs or other body parts.

“We don’t know how much this could be circulating through the Kootenays,” Martzke said, “but if you use cocaine or you know someone who does, we recommend getting it tested.”

Martzke said that is her usual recommendation anyway, but it is especially applicable now.

She said the dewormer turned up in only one sample, but it was about half cocaine, half Levamisole, a “significant” amount.

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