Molecule of the Day

Levamisole is one of those drugs that was discovered quite awhile ago, when we had even less idea what target things were hitting. It’s not used often in people these days. What’s interesting about it is that it is occasionally found as an adulterant in cocaine (PDF) – and it popped up again recently.


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It is truly bizzare what people use to cut drugs. I once heard of a chemistry professor who told his class about how he walked into a head shop and saw a big sack of mannitol behind the counter (which is used as a cutting or bulking agent for street drugs as well). He marvelled that he had just bought mannitol from Aldrich for his lab (presumably for more mundane, licit purposes) and that the shop was charging much too high a price. So, if you were thinking of saving on lab supplies at the bong store, that’s right out.

Comments

  1. #1 Ian
    December 3, 2008

    So what’s the rationale here – get high on cocaine, and get de-wormed as a lagniappe? That sounds very humanitarian :)

  2. #2 Sarah
    December 4, 2008

    I work as a forensic drug chemist, and we see Levamisole in Cocaine all the time…we’re puzzled too as to why anyone would want dewormer in their drugs…I’d love to know why

  3. #3 kirsten
    December 11, 2008

    Well, my first thought was that it’s widely available OTC as a veterinary dewormer, but then I ran across this:
    halturnershow.blogspot.com/2008/11/government-deliberately-poisoning.html

    I can’t imagine the government spending money on tainting illicit drugs with something as fairly innocuous instead of confiscating them, though.

  4. #4 J.B.
    July 11, 2009

    This could be the answer. Zhu, LeGatt, and Turner are not exactly sure why this pharmaceutically active agent is added to cocaine however; they speculate that cocaine producers or suppliers believe that the active agent enhances the cocaine’s effect or eases the side effects (1). Spector, Munjal, and Schmidt’s study on rats found that Levamisole increases dopamine levels in the brain’s euphoric center similarly to the psychoactive effects of cocaine in the human brain (2). Consequently, Zhu, LeGatt, and Turner hypothesize that adding Levamisole to the cocaine could therefore increase its effects by achieving higher dopamine levels in the brain (1). However, this practice is apparently dangerous as numerous individuals have been showing up in emergency rooms in Canada with agranulocytosis due to the postulated addition of Levamisole (1).

    1. Zhu N, LeGatt D,Turner R. Agranulocytosis after consumption of cocaine adulterated with levamisole. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2009; 150(4) 287-89.

    2. Spector S, Munjal I, Schmidt DE. Effects of the immunostimulant, levamisole, on opiate withdrawal and levels of endogenous opiate alkaloids and monoamine neurotransmitters in rat brain. Neuropsychopharmacology. 1998;19:417-27. [PMID: 9778663].[Medline]

  5. #5 g
    August 31, 2009

    This substance is not fairly innocuous people are dying all of the country from the levamisole now. While I don’t buy the mainstream media line that the drug cartels are doing this for profit (why would you use a deadly substance as a cutting agent?) it is interesting to note that Hal Turner is a known FBI informant http://www.fox61.com/news/hc-web-hal-turner-0819aug19,0,2943213.story?track=rss
    And the link by kirsten to halturnershow.blogspot.com/2008/11/government-deliberately-poisoning.html
    seems to be an intentionally nonsensical story about the government adding the substance at border checkpoints. This type of disinformation seems to indicate something more sinister.

  6. #6 pahana
    September 26, 2009

    Levamisole hydrochloride is only slightly soluble in absolute ethanol. So if you want to use cocaine I suggest you learn a few chemical processing techniques. Cocaine Hydrochloride is freely soluble in ethanol. Simply adding a small amount of ethanol to your sample will dissolve all the cocaine leaving levamisole behind. Filter off the levamisole and then evaporate off the alcohol from the cocaine solution and you will have mostly pure cocaine except for other cuts that may be soluble in ethanol. Alternatively lobby your congressperson to legalize cocaine so you may purchase a pure product from the drug store.

  7. #7 Vajayjay
    September 29, 2009

    It gets you high. The dealers are putting it in to rip off the clients…

  8. #8 Ryan
    October 29, 2009

    If you were to check your sources the web site you provided to back these claims is a blog named after Hall Turner, an American white nationalist and white supremacist from North Bergen, New Jersey. He was arrested in June 2009 for threats which he allegedly made against politicians, and he is currently jailed without bail. Prior to Turner’s arrest, his program, The Hal Turner Show, was a webcast from his home once a week, and it depended on listener donations.(Wikipedia, Hall Turner)

  9. #9 PharmDevelCHP
    January 8, 2010

    SWIM has heard that the reason cocaine manufacturers and traffickers are using levamisole as a cutting agent is the (possible) effect it has on dopamine receptors. Cocaine acts by stimulating dopamine production in the brain, and the “cocaine chemists” down in Colombia have discovered that they can increase weight and decrease purity by adding enough levamisole that would counter how much of the product they cut, with the users none the wiser. Just once pharmaceutical development majors opinion, though.

  10. #10 sufi
    January 20, 2010

    Kirsten….. it’s economy, not medicine.
    Confiscating does not decrease demand.
    Killing the buyer might.

  11. #11 Shreddrick
    January 13, 2011

    well its like this us gov playing hitler with out the camps pop control hello