There are hundreds of drugs and drug cocktails out there. From the basics, like marijuana and cocaine to prescription drugs like codeine and diazepam, drugs as a whole provide an escape for some.
But what about the drugs that you know will cause harm? You can survive heroin addiction. You can survive cocaine addiction. But there’s a drug that, if taken for two years, is guaranteed fatal: krokodil.
What is Krokodil?
In the early 2000s, Russian doctors began to notice a pattern. More and more patients were being admitted to their Emergency Departments with strange lacerations and skin lesions on their bodies. The lesions weren’t just open wounds, either. They were covered by and surrounded by green scales.
As it turned out, dozens of drug addicts had been injecting themselves with a drug soon to be known as krokodil.
Krokodil is the ultimate cocktail of fatal ingredients. Most of those ingredients are household items. In krokodil, you’ll find:
- Paint thinner
- Hydrochloric acid
- Phosphorus (from matches)
As you can imagine, the drug is fairly cheap to make. And when mixed, users inject it directly into the veins.
But there’s something different about krokodil from other drugs. It eats your flesh from the inside out. Those patients who had been showing up to the ED were victims of abuse of the drug, and their organs were rotting from the inside out.
Is Krokodil Addictive?
Krokodil is a highly addictive drug, which is unfortunate as users’ organs will begin to deteriorate almost immediately. The scientific name for krokodil is desomorphine, and it was actually first used for medical purposes in the early part of the 1900s. Obviously a powerful analgesic and sedative, it was originally used in Switzerland, but isn’t used for medicinal purposes anymore.
You might wonder: knowing that the drug is lethal, why do so many continue to use it?
There are three answers to this complex question. First of all, use of the drug krokodil isn’t very common. Back in the first decade of the 2000s, there was a Russian scare. The drug has been seen in use around the world, but it’s possession and use isn’t as common as, say, meth.
The second part of the answer is that it’s an injectable opioid. It works quickly, and the high lasts up to 90 minutes. People who have used the drug say there’s nothing quite like it.
Finally, you may be wondering why people take the drug in the first place. Before they’re ever addicted. Well, krokodil is an accessible, inexpensive alternative to heroin. Many times, heroin addicts have made the switch to krokodil as it was readily available and cheap.
What Does Krokodil Do to You?
Desomorphine has many nicknames. Krokodil is just one. On the streets, you may hear it referred to as:
- Russian Magic
- Poor Man’s Heroin
But, more frequently, drug users themselves refer to krokodil as “the drug that eats addicts.”
There’s a good reason for that. Krokodil does, in fact, kill you from the inside out. First, it damages the veins and soft tissues. Then, your tissues will become infected. Finally, your organs will become gangrenous and sepsis will occur. They’ll shut down and – there’s no nice way to say it – you’ll die.
It’s not a pretty death, either. Your flesh will begin to rot off your bones, and the smell is horrendous. In the beginning, a krokodil addict will smell strongly of iodine. But as time goes on, he’ll smell like the rotting flesh that is his body.
The visible effects soon become apparent. It’s not unusual for krokodil addicts to lose fingers or appendages. Flesh will literally fall away, but not before turning dark green and scaly.
We don’t know everything about addiction. But we do know that addictive substances affect the brain.
Opiates affect the pleasure centers of the brain, offering a “reward” for the use of drugs like krokodil. We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: people take drugs for a reason. If there wasn’t pleasure associated with drugs, people wouldn’t be as likely to do them. And they certainly wouldn’t begin to exhibit drug-seeking behaviors.
That said, if a person is addicted to heroin or other opioids, those drugs can act as a gateway drug to those like krokodil. And while the smell of rotting flesh emanating from the body may be enough to deter the non-addicted brain from krokodil, the addicted brain works very differently. An addicted brain has an inability to see that a behavior is harmful.
The flip side of that is that krokodil withdrawal is intense. A large population of those who keep using krokodil are, in part, doing so simply to avoid withdrawal.
Withdrawal from Krokodil
There’s not a lot known about treatment for krokodil addiction. It’s similar to heroin, but the effects on the physical body are so intense and severe that rehabilitation centers must go beyond simply treating the “addiction.”
If you or someone you know is addicted to krokodil, it’s important to seek medical help immediately. Rehabilitation and recovery centers may be able to help, but most will refer you to a hospital.
Krokodil is brutal on your body, even after just one use. You may be suffering from:
- Nerve damage
- Organ inflammation or even disintegration
- Destruction of bones
- Disintegration of skin
- Green, scaly patches on the skin
- Blood poisoning
Obviously, these symptoms aren’t easily treated outside of a hospital. Generally, the hospital will put a krokodil addict on a course of less harmful opiates, then taper off slowly to aid the withdrawal and detox process. Meanwhile, you may be required to undergo surgery if your organs are stable enough to do so.
Krokodil is no joke. And while reports have been mainly centered in Russia and the surrounding area, there have been reports in the United States, Europe and around the world.
Not enough is known about the drug to properly and fully understand the addiction to krokodil. What is know, however, is that prolonged use of the drug is 100% fatal.