A flesh-eating drug that’s widely available in Russia and Eastern Europe as an alternative to Heroine has found its way in the United States, specifically in the Midwest. While the DEA has announced that the drug is on its radar but is still not an immediate threat a doctor at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Joliet, Ill. Reported that he has treated three patients who had symptoms consistent to Krokodil abuse.
Dr. Abhin Singla, an internist at the hospital, said that “it is a horrific way to get sick. The smell of rotten flesh permeates the room.”
Singla said one of the patients was a 25 year old woman who had a history of heroine abuse. She switched to using Krokodil a month ago. “When she came in, she had the destruction that occurred because of this drug over about 70% of her lower body.”
All three patients were local women 25 years of age. Their arms and legs were significantly maimed from gangrene. One of the patients will have to undergo years of surgeries before she is able to walk again.
The increasing number of people using this drug may be attributed to the fact that the heroine epidemic has created a tolerance level where people addicted to it are now looking for a cheaper and better high. This is where Krokodil comes in.
Just last month cases consistent with Krokodil abuse were reported in Arizona. Physicians there say that they have been treating patients who admitted using Krokodil.
Krokodil, also known as desmorphine, is a home-made mixture of codeine and other chemicals which include gasoline, paint thinner, iodine, hydrochloric acid, red phosphorus, and lighter fluid. It’s a cheaper alternative to heroine yet more potent. The downside to this is that it eats the flesh from the inside out and usually the only viable medical treatment is amputation. The life expectancy of a Krokodil user is only two years.
The DEA, which has been tracking the drug for two years, say that it is not ready to recognize it as an immediate threat yet. A spokesperson for the agency said that “we, the DEA, are not seeing cases of it. Nothing’s been turned into any of our labs. As far as the DEA is concerned, we have not seen any cases.”
Frank LoVecchio, co-medical director of Phoenix-based Banner Poison Control and Drug Information Center, said that in order to positively identify Krokodil use the original substance used must be presented. It is not enough that positive identification of codeine or desmorphine has been found in a person’s urine.
In Russia where the drug originates from more than one million people are addicted to it. Its use has spread to other European countries including Germany. Russian authorities say that “The Russian government has considered some steps to curb this epidemic, including banning websites that explain how to make the opiate, placing codeine back into the prescription only category and increasing enforcement with escalated confiscation.”