Indiana University Bloomington

Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC)

Krokodil

Krokodil is an opiate-based drug of abuse. Krokodil is the Russian name for Crocodile and refers to the scaly green appearance of the user’s skin after using the drug. Also referred to as the “zombie apocalypse drug” because it eats away at the flesh, Krokodil made its first appearance in Russia over 10 years ago. Krokodil use is highest among poor, rural communities in Russia.

The drug is a mixture of Desomorphine, an opiate with fast acting pain relief properties available over the counter in Russia and mixers such as gasoline, paint thinner, iodine and hydrochloric acid. Krokodil is then injected and is said to produce a high similar to that of heroin. Krokodil is not only cheaper than heroin but also three times more addictive than the heroin that is readily available in the United States. An injection of heroin costs roughly $25 compared to an injection of Krokdil at $6-$8. Krokodil is easy to produce, requiring only a stove, a pan, and about 30 minutes.

Desomorphine, first patented in the United States in 1932 is no longer available in the States but sold without a prescription in Russia, where drugs like Methadone which are used to treat heroin addiction are illegal.

The effects of Krokodil mirror those of heroin, which causes euphoria and a dream-like state that induces nodding off or falling asleep after using it. These effects are short lived with Krokodil lasting about an hour and a half compared to heroin, which can last up to 4 hours after injection.

Recent reports of Krokodil use in the US have prompted an interest in the drug, which causes horrific skin wounds that can rot the flesh down to the bone. Other effects of Krokodil include speech impediments and erratic body movements. Treatments for the extreme skin conditions caused by Krokodil include surgery, skin grafts, and wound care.

Quitting Krokodil is much more difficult in that it takes up to a month for withdrawal to be complete; heroin withdrawal takes about a week. In Russia, the average life expectancy of a Krokodil user is about 2 years.

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration has not confirmed reports of Krokodil’s presence in the states yet. In order to identify the drug as Krokodil, samples tested must show the correct chemicals as being present. The suspected samples tested proved to be heroin. The skin wounds seen by emergency rooms in Arizona and Illinois, where supposed cases have been reported are actually typical skin infections from using dirty needles or sharing needles-both of which can cause serious skin infections.

For more information about Krokodil, please visit:
http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/emerging-trends

References

Doheny, Kathleen. (October 17, 2013). ‘Krokodil’ Drug FAQ. WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20130930/krokodil-drug-faq

Liebelson, Dana. (October 11, 2013). Flesh-Eating Zombie Drug Hits Midwest (Still Not A Joke). Mother Jones. http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/10/flesh-eating-drug-krokodil-spreads-chicago

Vultaggio, Maria. (October 15, 2013). Krokodil In America. International Business Times. http://www.ibtimes.com/krokodil-america-we-thought-it-was-just-normal-heroin-1427362

By Courtney Stewart, 11/18/2013