Grim photos reveal how cocaine can ROT skin and genitals as new drug crackdown launched – The Sun

SHOCKING images show how cocaine can rot both your skin and genitals – as Boris Johnson pledges to crack down on drug use in the UK.

Cocaine is used by about one million people in the UK every year, according to a Government review.

Almost all cocaine and crack sold on the street is diluted by at least one of other chemical, studies have shown.

They are often local anaesthetics such as benzocaine, lidocaine and phenacetin, but can also include paracetamol or lactose.

Around two thirds of the Class A drug cocaine that is smuggled into Britain is cut with levamisole, a de-worming agent which is fed to cows and horses.

Doctors in Colombia have warned that in very rare cases, the side effects can cause the skin to rot.

They published a report in BMJ Case Reports in 2016 of 11 patients who had all taken cocaine-levamisole that had caused parts of their face, limbs, buttocks and stomach to blacken and rot away.

For three of them, the blood supply to the genitals had been cut off – causing the skin to turn black and die.

The group were aged between 31 and 39, nine of them were men and all of them had been using cocaine for more than two years.

As well as the skin concerns, the doctors also noted joint and lung conditions.


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Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and clinical director of Patient Access, says people need to know about the risks they are taking when using coke, which is dangerous in itself let alone when it is cut with other ingredients.

She said: "Unscrupulous drug dealers often ‘cut’ their drug with other, cheaper products to increase their profits even further. And they don’t care how dangerous those other products are.

"Levamisole is one such product. It can cause complete collapse of your immune system and even cause your skin to rot."

The patients described were treated with steroids and after quitting drugs, all were able to recover.


Others aren't so lucky – repeatedly snorting the white stuff can damage the cartilage in the nose and the roof of the mouth, causing gaping holes.

Regularly smoking crack can cause breathing problems and injecting it can lead to gangrene.

Anyone can have a panic attack, heart attack or stroke if they take too much cocaine, drug charity FRANK warns.

Dr Jarvis added: "It can cause heart attacks even in young, otherwise healthy people; seizures and brain damage; and severe mental health problems, including paranoid ideas."

Cocaine creates a euphoric high, but this is short-lived, lasting between 20 to 30 minutes – leaving users desperately chasing the same high.

The more you use it, the more your brain will adapt to it, meaning you need a stronger dose to feel the same euphoria the next time around.

Regular use can make a person feel depressed and run down and may bring mental health problems to the surface.

The drug can have a profound impact on users’ mental health, as the devastating deaths of Love Island’s Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon have shown – both had traces of cocaine in their systems when they killed themselves.

Experts at Delamere Health have warned of mixing cocaine and alcohol together.

Research from the group suggests that mixing cocaine and alcohol makes you 25 times more likely to die compared to cocaine alone.

They said: "While many chase the high of combining drugs and alcohol, it can leave you with symptoms that aren’t pleasant; including impulsiveness, poor decision making, increased heart rate and arrhythmia, and anxiety."

Alcohol and cocaine together produce a toxic chemical called cocaethylene which stays in the body much longer, increasing the damage done to the heart and liver.


It comes ahead of the publication of a 10-year plan to battle the UK's drug problem.

Boris Johnson will unleash an all-out war on drugs this week in a massive drive to clean up Britain’s crime-plagued streets.

In the biggest anti-drugs blitz in a generation, he will invest millions in rehab for desperate addicts, coupled with harsher penalties for pushers and recreational buyers.

In an exclusive interview with The Sun on Sunday, Mr Johnson said: “Drugs are driving a lot of misery and we can fix it. They’re not going to make you happier.

"They’re not going to make you more successful. They’re not going to make you cooler. They’re bad news.

“Most of the crime driven by drugs is generated by 300,000 heroin and crack cocaine users — tragic people who have lost their way in life.

“You can lock them up again and again and we do but they come out again and reoffend so we have got to rehabilitate them.

"But then there is a separate group who can cope but who are also feeding the demand and helping to create the economics of the business.

“I don’t want to stereotype them but I’m talking about lifestyle drugs. These people think it’s a victimless crime.

“It isn’t. The country is ­littered with victims of what’s happened. We are going to look at new ways of penalising them.

"Things that will actually interfere with their lives so we will look at taking away passports and driving licences.”

The plan will include:

  • HARSH punishments to deter lifestyle drug use, including removal of passports and driving licences, night-time curfews and football-style travel bans;
  • TOUGHER sentences for dealers, action to break up County Lines gangs who exploit children and a crackdown on drugs in prisons;
  • RECORD spending on treatment and recovery services to get people out of addictions which drive offending;
  • EXTRA cash for 50 local authorities with the worst drug problems, including Middlesbrough, Blackpool, Liverpool, Hull and coastal towns in the North East and Yorkshire.

The Sun previously launched its End Of The Line campaign to raise awareness of the devastating effect the drug can have on users' mental and physical health.

Are you getting addicted to cocaine? 10 signs

1. Your eyes are bloodshot.

2. You've got a constant cold.

3. You keep getting tummy bugs.

4. You keep having nightmares.

5. You constantly feel on edge.

6. You don't feel the high.

7. You need coke for a night out.

8. You don't want to see your mates.

9. Your teeth are playing up.

10. You take extreme risks.

Read about each of these signs here.


It was in 2019 that researchers revealed that Londoners snort more cocaine than people who live in Barcelona or Amsterdam.

But it is in fact Bristol that is the "cocaine capital" of 75 European cities studied by King's College London.

Cocaine is the most commonly used illicit stimulant drug in the European Union, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

Around 18 million adults (aged 15-64) in the EU have used cocaine at least once in their lifetime.

Of these, around three million are young adults (aged 15-34) who have used the drug in the last year.

Cocaine used to arrive in the UK from South America in pure form, but drug gangs now cut the product before it is shipped.

Levamisole is cheap in countries such as Colombia and Venezuela and acts as a stimulant so it's easy to disguise to users.

It was used to treat arthritis and bowel cancer in the past, but it was banned for use by humans in 2000.

This was due to the severe side effects, including damaging white blood cells so badly that it causes skin rotting.

Now, it's only supposed to be used in veterinary medicine to kill parasitic worms.

But there have been a number of reported cases where people have been left with rotting skin after taking cocaine that's been mixed with the chemical.

In one case, a 42-year-old woman went to see her doctor in the Netherlands complaining of ulcerating sores on her legs and face.

She persistently denied substance abuse but after testing her hair for toxins, medics discovered she had been taking cocaine cut with levamisole.

In another instance, in Texas, USA, a 68-year-old woman went to doctors with a blood-filled blister on the end of her nose while her forearms and face were covered in fleshy sores.

Tests revealed she had been taking cocaine laced with levamisole and doctors diagnosed her with vasculitis – an inflammation of the blood vessels.

She was told to stop using the drugs and her condition cleared up in six months.

End Of The Line

Cocaine use is reaching epidemic levels in Britain, with the UK branded the ‘Coke capital’ of Europe.

Use has doubled in the last five years, and with young people the numbers are even worse.

A staggering one in five 16-to-24-year-olds have taken cocaine in the last year.

That’s why The Sun previously launched its End Of The Line campaign, calling for more awareness around the drug.

Cocaine use can cause mental health problems such as anxiety and paranoia, while doctors have linked the rise in cheap, potent coke to an increase in suicide rates.

People from all walks of life, from builders and labourers to celebrities like Jeremy McConnell – who is backing our campaign – have fallen foul of its lure.

It’s an issue that is sweeping the UK and, unless its tackled now, means a mental health crisis is imminent.

Where to go for help


Helpline open 24/7: 0300 123 6600


For help finding a service or to Instant chat

Change, Grow, Live

Help for anyone with drug and alcohol issues.

Dedicated help for people under 25.


Mental health support line: 0300 304 7000

Action on Addiction

Rehab and community addiction treatment

0300 330 0659


Helpline open 9am-9pm, 7 days a week

0300 888 3853

Help for families affected by drugs and alcohol


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