The first cases of a terrifying new drug called ‘Krokodil’ that eats flesh from the inside out, is flammable and leaves addicts with reptilian-like skin have been reported this week in Arizona – and the state fears the beginning of an epidemic. Popular in Russia, Krokodil is homemade, is three-times cheaper than heroin and created by mixing codeine with gasoline or oil, filtering it and then injecting the rancid concoction into the users body.
Banner’s Poison Control Center most likely encountered the drug when two addicts arrived in emergency rooms with their flesh hanging off their body, exposing bone or with skin resembling that of a crocodile, hence its name.
‘We’ve had two cases this past week that have occurred in Arizona,’ said Dr. Frank LoVecchio, the co-medical director at Banner’s Poison Control Center. Continual use of Krokodil causes blood vessels to burst, leaving skin green and scaly among addicts eventually causing gangrene and their flesh to begin to rot. Rabid use in Russia has caused up to 2.5 million people to register and seek treatment as addicts and the average life span for a user is only two to three years.
‘When drug users do it repeatedly, the skin sloughs. It causes hardening of their skin. It will cause necrosis,’ explained LoVecchio. LoVechhio says that the two cases he has encountered are most likely linked and he declined to comment on the appearance of the two users. ‘Where there is smoke there is fire, and we’re afraid there are going to be more and more cases,’ said LoVechhio.
In Russia, Krokodil usage is spreading like a virus among young people and according to a Time magazine investigation, even those who manage to quit their addiction come away disfigured for life. Some users in Russia develop brain damage and speech impediments in addition to the horrific scars.
Krokodil, whose medical name is desomorphine, has the same mental effect as heroin but is produced with over-the-counter codeine and mixed with gasoline, paint thinner, hydrochloric acid and even the red phosphorous scraped from the tips of matches.
Prevalent in Siberia and the Russian Far East, the explosion of users began in 2002, but over the past five years in Russia, usage has trebled. In 2011 alone, Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service confiscated 65 million doses. The flesh rotting that is specific to Krokodil occurs directly at the injection site which could be anywhere from the feet to the forehead to the more traditional arms. According to Time magazine, ‘Gangrene and amputations are a common result, while porous bone tissue, especially in the lower jaw, often starts to dissipate, eaten up by the drug’s acidity.’