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Another Deadly Fad

by Ned Wicker

It’s been around since 1932, but emerged in Russia in 2010 as a cheap alternative to heroin, with quite a kick. Its technical name is Desomorphine (dihydrodesoxymorphine), or krokodil (crocodile) as its known on the streets. Some 8-10 times stronger than morphine, krokodil was made popular because of its ease in manufacturing. It’s simple to make and far less expensive than heroin, so it naturally is a target for those desiring a quick buck on the street. The problem is, it’s deadly.


Here in the U.S., recent deaths due to the drug have brought attention to its devastating effects, but the lure of a quick and cheap high is more than any addict can resist, so naturally people gravitate to this poison thinking “it’ll never happen to me.” The drug is easy to make, as dealers mix up a batch from codeine, along with some iodine and red phosphorus, along with a variety of other potentially lethal substances depending on the recipe used. It’s similar in process to the making of methamphetamine, which is a problem because the small, portable labs are hard to detect and easily moved from place to place.

It’s taken a while for krokodil to find its way here. The rise in use in Russia, Siberia in particular, started being reported in the early 2000’s. The name krokodil comes from the Ruissian work for crocodile, and the drug spread through Russia and into the other former Soviet states. The drug is known for its destructive nature, especially tissue damage, which leaves the skin looking scaly. The similar high to heroin is what makes it popular, but the effects do not last as long. Still, because it is so much cheaper people will try it, even though they really have no idea what they are taking and some have died for a moment of pleasure.

The drug has been reported here this year and recently the death of a couple of young people has brought attention to the potential of a deadly game starting here, as those who can’t afford heroin, but want to get high, will turn to krokodil for an answer.

A cheap heroin knockoff from Russia

According to the Huffington Post, “Dr. Abhin Singala, a specialist at Presence St. Joseph Medical Center in the Chicago suburb of Joliet, said he's treating three people who took krokodil, a cheap heroin knockoff from Russia known to cause such extreme gangrene and abscesses that a user's muscles, tendons and bones can become exposed.

“If you want to kill yourself, this is the way to do it,” Singla said according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “As of late as last week, the first cases – a few people in Utah and Arizona – were reported to have been using the heroin-like drug, which rots the skin from the inside out,” Singala said in a Tuesday press release. "It is a horrific way to get sick. The smell of rotten flesh permeates the room.

The drug itself isn't responsible for the "rotting from the inside-out" but the devastating effects come from them “amateur” chemists who make the batches from a variety of substances. Back in 1932, the drug was first developed as a pain killer called Permonid, but the illicit street drug doesn't take out the harmful chemicals that cause the damage.

Another starting statistic, according to Singala, is that krokodil addicts’ life expectancy ins less than two years. As heroin users look for cheaper highs, or when heroin isn't available, this easily made killer will be there to meet the demand. It’s a one-way ticket to death. Sadly, addicts will ignore the obvious.

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