July 29, 2008

Illegal Drug Users May Have Snorted Contaminated Cocaine

By The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.

Jul. 29--Over the past week, 12 illegal drug users have appeared in Wake County emergency rooms and hospitals with symptoms suggesting they were contaminated by an unknown chemical, said county health officials.

The majority of these patients snorted cocaine, though there have been reports of heroin use as well. Many of the 12 patients have been hospitalized, some in intensive care.

Of the 12 victims, six sought care at WakeMed Raleigh, three at WakeMed Cary, and three at Rex Hospital. The vast majority appear to live in southeast Raleigh.

County health officials are not sure what exact substance is causing the problem. However, it is similar to the effects of Clenbuterol, a veterinary grade drug that was found as a contaminant in both cocaine and heroin during an outbreak that occurred over several states in 2005.

Patients may complain of fast heart rates, anxiety, agitation, tremors, chest pain, shortness of breath and nausea. One clue is that the drug lacks the anesthetic property of true cocaine, as drug users will recall a lack of the "tingling" sensation on the tongue.

Wake County health personnel are investigating the cause of the contamination, and awaiting lab results to try and identify the contaminant.

To report someone selling these contaminated drugs, contact the Raleigh Police Department at 890-3550 or 890-3555. Calls can be anonymous and will be kept confidential.


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Copyright (c) 2008, The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.

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