Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

VIDEO: Flesh-Eating Drug ‘Krocodil’ Makes its Debut in U.S.

The classic crocodile-like skin damage caused by desomorphine use.

The classic crocodile-like skin damage caused by desomorphine use.

The first cases of side effects from using krocodil, aka desomorphine, a drug that has been in use in Russia up until now, have surfaced in the U.S. According to Dr. Frank LoVecchio, co-medical director at Arizona’s Banner Good Samaritan Poison and Drug Information Center, ”As far as I know, these are the first cases in the United States that are reported,”  said Lo Vecchio,  ”So we’re extremely frightened.”

He did not specify the condition of the hospitalized krocodil users. If he had, more might understand why health care professionals are afraid. Users of the drug take it via injection, and the drug is so caustic that it kills the skin and flesh at the injection site, causing them to turn green and scaly — like a crocodile’s. Soon the drug eats away the addict’s skin and flesh leaving open sores that expose the addict’s already weakened immune system to opportunistic infections that often require the removal of the necrotic tissue and can even lead to amputations. Internal damage is as bad as external damage; a krocodil user’s life expectancy is only about 2-4 years compared to a heroin user’s life expectancy of 5-7 years. Users also tend to share needles, so HIV infection among krocodil users is high.

Krocodil user with an open sore caused by the drug's caustic effect.

A krocodil user with an open sore caused by the drug's caustic effect.

Naturally the only reason use of the drug persists and spreads is because it is extremely addictive, gives a heroin-like high and is cheap and easy to make. Users cook codeine mixed with a hydrocarbon, like gasoline or fuel oil, filter and then inject the resulting extract. It often still contains enough gasoline to kill flesh at the injection site.

Lo Vecchio is expecting more and more cases of krocodil addiction to emerge, ”Where there is smoke there is fire, and we’re afraid there are going to be more and more cases,” he said.

Videos of krocodil users show just how bad their bodied can get, and are not for the faint of heart. Though such videos might act as a deterrent to some thinking about trying Krocodil, others eager for a new high may not know or care.

The following video is more informational and less graphic than others, but it none-the-less conveys the serious problems krocodil causes.

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