Krokodil: a home-brewed designer opiate

July 1, 2011, 10:46 pm

Recent articles in Time Magazine and The Independent (U.K.) have focused on a widespread problem in Russia: addiction to krokodil (crocodile), and nasty home-brewed synthetic opiate that Time calls “Russia’s deadliest new designer drug“.

Since the Russian government has waged a somewhat successful campaign to decrease supply of Afghan heroin, street prices have increased, and many users — especially in poorer areas of the country — have been priced out of the market and driven to seek alternative drugs. Krokodil is made from codeine — available cheaply and without prescription in Russia. Time reports that the manufacturing process uses gasoline, paint thinner, hydrochloric acid, iodine, and red phosphorous.  The resulting mixture contains desomorphine, an opiate far stronger than heroin.  It also is extremely impure, causing horrendous damage to skin and other tissues:

At the injection site, that can be anywhere from the feet to the forehead, the addict’s skin becomes greenish and scaly, like a crocodiles, as blood vessels burst and the surrounding tissue dies. 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.

The Independent adds that:

Unlike heroin, where the hit can last for several hours, a krokodil high only lasts between 90 minutes and two hours . . . Given that the “cooking” process takes at least half an hour, being a krokodil addict is basically a full-time job.

Fox News reports that the DEA is monitoring the situation, but has not yet seen any evidence that krokodil has reached the United States. Given that codeine is not available over-the-counter here, it fortunately seems unlikely that they will. The Fox story links to the following video clip, apparently taken from Russian TV, purporting to show tissue destruction caused by injecting krokodil (WARNING — extremely graphic images):

Thanks to DoseNation for making me aware of the Independent and Fox News coverage.


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