Flesh-eating Drug Arrives Stateside
The dangerous heroin substitute “krokodil” is making its way across the US, leaving devastation in its wake.
All drugs are dangerous, but a new substance krokodil, known as the “flesh-eating drug,” has made its way to the US, and health officials fear the havoc it may wreak. Seen as a cheaper alternative to heroin, the flesh-eating drug was mainly popular in Russia and Eastern Europe. Then it surfaced in Arizona, and new cases showed up last week in a Chicago suburb, where at least three patients had symptoms consistent with krokodil abuse, according to a hospital statement.
Krokodil (pronounced like “crocodile” and given the nickname due to the scaly skin, abscesses, lesions and gangrenous limbs it can produce) is nothing more than a back-alley version of a drug called desomorphine. It is derived from codeine processed with ordinary ingredients including paint thinner, iodine, hydrochloric acid, red phosphorus, gasoline and lighter fluid. With ingredients like that, it’s no wonder krokodil has the power to ravage the flesh, often leading to amputation.
Why would someone knowingly take a substance that can rot his or her flesh? It’s never a first resort. In fact, users are often serious addicts who are desperately seeking a bigger high for less money. The resort to krokodil because it’s cheap, providing the same high for roughly one-tenth of the price, and they give little thought to the long-term consequences.
Doctors outside of Chicago recalled the experience of one 25-year-old woman with a lengthy history of heroin abuse who reported switching over to krokodil about one month ago.
“When she came in, she had the destruction that occurred because of this drug over about 70 percent of her lower body,” the doctor said in an interview with CBS2 in Chicago.
The cases in Arizona and Illinois remain officially unconfirmed, but that may only be because the DEA is requiring the original substance in order to confirm. Most drug users don’t keep extra stock on hand, so that’s proven difficult. Still, medical professional and drug treatment experts are keeping a wary eye out.
If you or someone you love needs treatment for an addiction and co-occurring disorder, call The Canyon at the toll-free helpline on our homepage. Someone is there to take your call 24 hours a day and answer any questions you have about treatment, financing or insurance.
By Wendy Lee Nentwig