A dangerous drug, Krokodil (desomorphine) is making headlines as the first known cases related to the drug are popping up across the United States. Krokodil, aka desomorphine, is a highly addictive homemade opioid that emerged in Siberia and Russia in the early 2000’s as a cheaper, more potent alternative to heroin.
Krokodil got its street name, meaning crocodile, for the scaly texture and gangrenous rot it gives a user’s skin. It’s typically made with some combination of codeine (which was available in tablets over the counter in Russia until June 2012) and a number of other toxic additives like lighter fluid, paint thinner, gasoline, iodine, red phosphorus, and turpentine. These household chemicals make the drug injectable, and are responsible for its gruesome and dangerous side effects. Though Krokodil gives users an intense high, it’s short lived, and they quickly experience withdrawal symptoms as well as adverse skin problems. The chemical additives cause blood vessels to burst, further leading to open sores, necrosis, and rotting flesh that easily gets infected and in some cases requires amputation. There is also significant brain damage associated with Krokodil use, which potentially affects memory, mobility, and speech. After injecting Krokodil for the first time, the life expectancy of a user is 2 years or less, a number that compounds fears surrounding the drug.
Krokodil is created by both dealers and users as an inexpensive and strong heroin-like product, but because the high is shorter-lasting the drug is highly addictive. It is estimated that nearly 1 million Russians are addicted to Krokodil, an especially frightening number considering the short life expectancy after use. Now, with possible Krokodil cases suddenly appearing in Utah, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Illinois, fears are surmounting. Though none of these reports have been confirmed by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) due to lack of drug sampling, the doctors insist these are Krokodil cases and the DEA recently expressed conscious concern that the drug may be out there. Two apparent Krokodil addicted sisters out of Illinois claim that they got hooked on the drug unknowingly after buying what they thought was cheap heroin from their drug dealer. Within weeks, they developed the trademark skin lesions and health problems, but were already addicted.
Dr. Gerald Grosso, clinical director of Morningside Recovery, was interviewed in an article for CBS News on the addictive nature of desomorphine and other opiates. According to Dr. Grosso, for many users, continued use despite the corrosive effects may not necessarily be about the high. As he explains, “When people are using [Krokodil] it’s not so much about getting a high anymore, it’s more about not going through withdrawals.”
Despite the poisonous and upsetting nature of Krokodil, the media frenzy surrounding it with these sporadic reports is unwarranted, given a number of other drugs that pose a greater threat to the American populous. This includes the growing problem with prescription opiates and heroin, which Grosso reaffirms are gateways to Krokodil use. Thus, an effective tactic against Krokodil becoming widespread is reigning in prescription drug addiction.
Recent efforts from the FDA to restrict the prescription and refills of narcotics is promising, but there are also simple steps that can be taken at home. Since most first-time prescription drug users get pills from a home medicine cabinet, locking away medication and disposing of unused pills can effectively reduce addiction risk, which on a mass scale can further prevent Krokodil from becoming America’s newest drug epidemic.
Read Dr. Grosso’s entire interview and view the CBS News Video on Krokodil addiction here: http://morningsiderecovery.com/news/morningside-recovery-dr-gerald-grosso-on-krokodil