July 30, 2008

Contaminant Sickens Drug Users

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

Jul. 30--Over the past week, 12 illegal drug users have been treated 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 ingested cocaine, though there have been reports of heroin use as well. Many of the 12 patients have been hospitalized, some in intensive care, officials said.

Of the 12 victims, six sought care at WakeMed Raleigh Campus, three at WakeMed Cary Hospital, and three at Rex Hospital. Most appear to live in Southeast Raleigh.

County health officials are not sure what exact substance is causing the illness, but say the symptoms are 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 across several states in 2005.

Patients 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. The drug users infected recall a lack of the "tingling" sensation on the tongue.

Wake County health personnel are investigating the cause of the contamination. They are awaiting lab results they hope will 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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