30 Dec 2013
Would you swallow paint thinner or iodine? Would you inject yourself with lighter fluid or gasoline? Of course not. But desperate addicts living in impoverished areas of the world have turned to a drug that is made up of these kinds of toxic ingredients. The drug is known as Krokodil and it is a deadly substance.
The History Of Krokodil
Krokodil first appeared in the early 20th Century when it held a Swiss patent and was sold under the name Permonid. It is a derivative of morphine, but is 8-10 times stronger than morphine. Because of this, the drug also has a long history of non-medical use.
More recently, the drug resurfaced in poor areas of Russia around 2002 where it was seen as a cheap substitute for heroin. Krokodil is a concoction of codeine and any number of harsh chemicals which might be found around the house or in the garage. It has been cheap to make because until not long ago codeine was sold over-the-counter in Russia.
From 2002-2010 use of Krokodil spread across Russia, dragging what is guessed to be several million addicts in its wake. Exact figures on the numbers of users are hard to come by since the drug is essentially a form of suicide. Many users die within two years of starting to inject Krokodil. Why would people take such a scary drug? Because it is three times cheaper than heroin and 10 times stronger than codeine.
Krokodil did not remain in Russia. It is believed to have spread across Europe, taking hold in poor, mostly rural regions. It is now thought that Krokodil has crossed the ocean to Central or perhaps North America. There was a highly publicized report of a young girl who showed up in a hospital in Mexico City with what doctors thought to be a severe STD. Instead, it turned out that the girl had been injecting Krokodil into her genital area for a period of months.
Nasty Effects Of Krokodil On The Body
Krokodil is gruesome in that the drug destroys the user’s body from within. The drug causes blood vessels to break open and nearby tissue to die. Like the corrosive agents used to make the drug, lesions eat away a person’s flesh right down to the bone. It is called Krokodil because at the site where the person injects themselves with the drug the skin takes on a toughened, scale-like appearance. It gets a foothold among groups where heroin is too expensive. In the U.S. evidence shows a similar trend with many turning away from expensive prescription drugs in favor of far less costly street heroin.
Krokodil In The U.S.?
There have been unsubstantiated reports of Krokodil’s presence here in the United States, but so far no reports have been verified. Bringing a sample into a reputable lab is all that would be needed to determine that the drug has indeed come to America. Experts suggest that there is really no reason for Krokodil to find a home in this country.
Drug enforcement agents, addiction specialists and others say that the fact that Americans can afford less immediately lethal street drugs is reason enough to forego Krokodil. Though Krokodil, like methamphetamine, is a drug made as a home-brew, it is still hard to find, so why would drug users go looking for it? Lastly, Krokodil’s high is dependent on codeine – a substance that is far more controlled in this country than in other parts of the world.
So while the drug has definitely been traveling around the globe in recent years, it does not appear to have landed here as of yet. Still, the hopelessness that would drive a person to use such a frighteningly destructive drug is enough to warrant concern here at home and around the world.
Read More About Reported Cases Of Krokodil Use In The U.S.
A new drug that has devastating consequences for its users may have finally been confirmed to have made it into the U.S. The drug is called Krokodil, and it first appeared in Russia as a cheap, homemade substitute for heroin. The name, which means crocodile in Russian, refers to the scaly sores that appear almost immediately after using this drug. The sores begin under the skin and can be so bad that the drug has been described as flesh-eating. The result is horrific and can lead to scarring, amputation, and even death.
Krokodil Beginnings In Russia
Homemade injectable opioid drugs are nothing new in Russia. Resourceful people there have been creating and using their own drugs to get high for decades. In the 1990s, the heroin trade from Afghanistan increased and drug users did not need to make their own substitutes. Heroin addiction became a serious and widespread problem in the country.
Over the last few years, the Russian government has targeted illegal opium sales to try to solve the problem of heroin addiction. As sources of heroin dwindled and the product became more expensive, the practice of making heroin substitutes at home came back into favor. Krokodil is easily made from codeine, a prescription opioid, and other household chemicals.
Krokodil gives the user a high similar to heroin, but with even worse side effects. The green and black colored sores and ulcers begin to appear soon after the first use, and get worse as use of the drug continues. The drug, with the chemical name desmorphine, as well as the other chemicals that go into making it, tend to clump up and stay inside blood vessels all over the body. The clumps lead to infections and sores that spread and worsen.
Disputed Krokodil Cases In The U.S.
Experts in the field of illegal drugs have long feared that Krokodil would eventually show up in the U.S. Several disputed cases have been reported, including a doctor in the Chicago area who is convinced he treated two young women with the sores caused by Krokodil use. Cases in California and other states were also unconfirmed.
Reputable Case Of Krokodil Use In The U.S.
Now, it would seem that the worst fears of some have been vindicated. Two doctors working at St. Mary’s Health Center outside of St. Louis, Missouri, have published their findings from treating a victim of Krokodil use. They treated the 30-year-old man in December 2012. He had sores all over his legs. His skin was rotting away in places, and he had lost a finger on one hand to the infection. He told the doctors that he had been injecting himself with a synthetic heroin substitute that he made using codeine, gasoline, and other household chemicals. The admission, along with the sores, made a strong case that the doctors did treat a young man who had been using this scary new form of heroin.
Krokodile – Possible Future U.S. Epidemic?
If the doctors are right and Krokodil is now being used in the U.S., the implications are very serious. If drug users addicted to heroin and other opioids learn how to make this drug and can do so inexpensively, it could represent a new epidemic, much like what has been seen in Russia. The disfiguring effects of using Krokodil, as well as the addictive nature of the drug, mean that many people will suffer, and even die from using it. The Drug Enforcement Agency has yet to confirm the presence of Krokodil in the U.S., but with reports coming in from emergency rooms across the country, that confirmation does not seem to be far off.
Read More About Krokodil Claiming U.S. Victims
20 Nov 2013
Desomorphine, also known by the Russian nickname Krokodil or the English language equivalent Crocodile, is a synthetic substance based on the opioid narcotic drug morphine. This drug, outlawed in America, has much stronger chemical effects than morphine and produces severe side effects in long-term users that can include tissue destruction, limb loss or death. Desomorphine users commonly take a homemade form of the drug that contains one or more additional toxic substances. Until recently, desomorphine abuse was not known to affect any segment of the U.S. population. However, in September 2013, the country’s first identified cases of this abuse allegedly occurred in Phoenix, Arizona.
Morphine is an opioid substance taken directly from the sap of a plant called Papaver somniferum (commonly referred to as the opium poppy). Like all other natural and synthetic opioids, it achieves powerful, potentially addicting drug effects by accessing key portions of the brain and creating intense spikes in pleasure levels, as well as a reduced ability to feel pain. Desomorphine was invented in a laboratory setting in the 1930s by changing morphine molecules’ natural chemical structure. Compared to morphine, it produces roughly 10 times the level of effect at any given dose. This drug effect comes on rapidly and also fades away in a relatively short amount of time.
Even in its most chemically pure form, desomorphine is capable of producing significant damage when used repeatedly over time. The most common side effect of chronic use—a form of blood vessel and soft tissue damage that results in green, scaly skin—gives the drug its nickname, Krokodil (Crocodile). If left untreated, desomorphine-related vessel and tissue damage can ultimately result in tissue death (gangrene) or a clot- and inflammation-based ailment called thrombophlebitis. People with these conditions can lose their affected limbs to amputation or even die. Doctors can potentially combat the active drug effects of desomorphine with the anti-narcotic medication naloxone or other treatments used to address heroin addiction. However, there is no specific, fully developed treatment for the drug. In addition to dealing with the brain effects of desomorphine addiction, doctors commonly need to address the severe physical injuries associated with the drug’s use.
Today, desomorphine abuse doesn’t typically involve batches of the drug made in a laboratory. Instead, most users make an injectable form of the drug themselves by boiling tablets of another opioid narcotic, called codeine, then combining the resulting liquid with any one of a number of additional toxic additives, including gasoline, red phosphorus, hydrochloric acid or paint thinner. Together, these substances can produce a level of blood vessel and tissue damage far above that associated with pure desomorphine, and users can develop large pockets of rotting flesh or even lose their flesh all the way down to the bone. Current evidence indicates that chronic users of “bootleg” Krokodil commonly die within a period of two or three years.
International Patterns of Krokodil Usage
The first known cases of bootleg Krokodil abuse occurred among heroin users in Russia in 2003. These users were looking for a cheaper alternative to the normally available narcotics in their country. According to current estimates, roughly 1 million people in Russia and another million people in other European regions use the drug. However, these estimates are likely quite imprecise, and no one really knows how many people in Europe or other areas across the globe take some form of Krokodil. In the U.S., desomorphine belongs to a highly restricted class of substances called Schedule I substances. All drugs with this federal classification are illegal, present a strong potential for the onset of abuse and/or addiction, and have no accepted usefulness in medical treatment. Still, some amount of pharmaceutical-grade desomorphine likely enters the U.S. through illegal Internet sales or other unlawful avenues. Americans also have access to the materials required to make bootleg desomorphine.
First Krokodil Cases In The U.S.
In September 2013, a poison control center in Phoenix, Arizona, reported two cases of Krokodil abuse among local residents. The directors of this facility believe that the cases in question are related, a situation that indicates that use of the drug is not widespread. However, since they represent the first nationally reported incidences of Krokodil abuse in the U.S., the two cases are naturally garnering significant amounts of scrutiny and media attention. As of now, no one can truly say what course the use of homemade desomorphine will take among American IV drug abusers in the years and decades to come.
Read More About The Zombie Drug Finding It’s Way To The U.S.
News accounts of the party drug known as “molly” seem to have been replaced recently with reports of a much more frightening drug called krokodil. Health officials are now concerned that the synthetic drug, which is said to deliver a heroin-like high, has made its way into the United States. Physicians in Utah, Arizona, and, most recently, Illinois, have reported possible cases of krokodil use, putting drug addiction and health experts on alert.
Krokodil is a homemade version of a drug called desomorphine, which was developed in the 1930s as a morphine alternative. However, researchers found that it was up to 10 times stronger than morphine, so its use was discontinued. Illicit drug users now re-create desomorphine by using a base made from codeine, a narcotic used to relieve pain and suppress coughs.
The drug, which Time has called a “dirty cousin of morphine,” also contains a dangerous mix of alcohol, paint thinner, gasoline and lighter fluid. The mixture includes red phosphorus as well, a substance used in the striking pads of matchboxes. Iodine is another ingredient — one that often leaves addicts enveloped in a tell-tale heavy iodine odor that, as one Russian physician noted, can’t be washed out of clothing.
Krokodil can be easily concocted at home in about 30 minutes. Users inject krokodil wherever they find available veins on their body, from their head to their feet. Injecting the drug delivers a high quickly — in as little as five minutes. This is in contrast to the one to two hours it can take to get high from drugs in pill or capsule form.
This dangerous substance delivers a more potent high than heroin. However, the euphoric feeling doesn’t last as long, at anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours. Addiction occurs quickly, catapulting users into a never-ending cycle that moves from cooking the drug to getting high to cooking the next batch. Users interviewed for news accounts have reported going for days without sleep as they binged on krokodil.
Anyone who has seen the sensational-sounding online headlines about this drug addiction may have written them off as attempts by websites to generate traffic: “Zombie apocalypse drug reaches U.S.” or “Krokodil –The drug that eats junkies.” However, headlines like these are not exaggerations. The drug gets its name from its effect on the skin and underlying tissue. It’s believed the damage is caused not by the psychoactive ingredient desomorphine, but rather the caustic substances used in the concoction. These chemicals destroy blood vessels and tissue. Unsanitary drug cooking and injection practices also likely play a role in the destruction.
After krokodil is injected, blood vessels burst and tissue surrounding the injection site dies. As a result, the skin takes on a greenish, scaly appearance that mimics that of a crocodile, or krokodil in Russian. The process leads to open, festering wounds and infections as the skin rots from the inside out, eventually causing gangrene. Those with an addiction to krokodil can be left with dead skin that peels away to reveal tissue and bone underneath. Many users experience blood poisoning. The damage addicts suffer typically requires intensive wound care or skin grafts. Amputations are common.
Over time, the drug’s acidity also dissolves porous bone, especially in the jawbone and teeth. The effect has been compared to “meth mouth,” which is the unsightly rotting of the gums and teeth often seen in methamphetamine addicts. Chronic krokodil abusers frequently lose their teeth.
The average life expectancy of a krokodil addict is estimated to be very short at only two to three years. However, even those who are able to overcome the addiction are left with lasting and devastating physical effects. Krokodil causes brain damage in chronic users, leaving them with speech impediments and impaired motor skills, often in the form of jerky movements. In fact, the disjointed movements combined with addicts’ skin and tissue injuries have caused some to deem krokodil the “zombie” drug.
Krokodil In The U.S.
According to a report published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, this homemade drug is believed to have first been used in Russia in 2003. For years, its use was confined largely to Russia and the surrounding countries that had been part of the Soviet Union. Experts estimate about 100,000 Russians have become addicted to krokodil and other illicit homemade drugs. By 2011, krokodil began moving into Germany and Norway. The ingredients are widely available, and users freely circulate recipes that make it easy to create batches on a home stove. It also costs a fraction of what users pay for heroin.
Currently, the U.S. incidents are being classified as possible cases; although the physical symptoms appear to be consistent with krokodil use, drug addiction experts have not been able to obtain samples of the drug, nor have they been able to get blood or urine samples that might confirm its use. Obtaining positive samples from addicts may be challenging because the body metabolizes the drug so quickly.
Because of the very serious side effects, treatment must start as soon as possible. Treating this addiction is a complex process, requiring a joint effort by physicians and addiction professionals. The obvious physical symptoms may require emergency care, making hospitalization necessary. As medical staff members try to stem the physical damage, a skilled addictions team will need to address the severe withdrawal symptoms.
Although the drug mimics the euphoric high of heroin, there are differences regarding withdrawal. Heroin’s physical withdrawal symptoms last about a week, while krokodil’s can draw out for as long as a month. Russian addiction experts say it causes such intense pain that it’s common to tranquilize patients during withdrawal. Addicts also experience seizures, fever, and vomiting.
Following withdrawal, a drug rehab team will start the addict on an intensive therapy program. Treatment will likely include extended inpatient rehab along with individual and group therapy. Long-term aftercare, including sober living, may also be part of the recovery plan. In addition, an addict might need physical or occupational therapy to address the physical aftermath of this addiction.
Krokodil addiction must be treated immediately by professional addiction treatment specialists. If you or someone you love is using this extremely dangerous substance, don’t wait to get help. Contact a drug addiction recovery center today.
Read More Russia’s Deadly Krokodil