The Russian-produced heroin alternative Krokodil has gained widespread media attention in the past few years. Krokodil is an impure home made version of Desomorphine which has not been shorn of its impurities and toxic by-products. It has more than a million addicts in Russia, where millions of doses of the drug are being produced each year. Already infamous for its hideous side effects and the short life expectancy of its users, Krokodil is one of the primary fears of US health professionals who deal with drug abuse cases. While less likely to become widespread in America – where heroine is easy to come by and codeine requires a prescription – it is still of concern.
People in Russia use Krokodil because of its potency and its price. Heroin is hard to obtain, and Krokodil is around one tenth of the cost of a heroin injection. It is also ten times the potency, and more than eight times stronger than morphine.
Yet Krokodil is also incredibly dangerous.
What are the side effects of Krokodil?
Krokodil has some of the most extreme side effects of any illegal drug. Being made from a mixture of codeine and things such as lighter fluid and paint thinners, it is unsurprising that it causes extreme damage to the body. The process of cooking these ingredients causes a range of toxic by-products to get into the mixture. These are extremely hard to remove, even when a user is being as careful as possible.
The first extreme side effect of Krokodil, and the one from which it gets its name, is that the skin around the area of injection becomes green and scaly (Krokodil is Russian for crocodile) (1). Other external side effects of Krokodil include open wounds and a loss of skin. Inside a user’s body, the drug eats through flesh and skin (1), often leaving users with open wounds that go all the way to the bone.
Krokodil also causes brain damage in its users, many of whom develop problems with their speech, as well as erratic movements. It’s no wonder people on the street refer to it as the ‘Zombie Drug’.
The most serious symptom of Krokodil is death. The average Krokodil life expectancy of an addict is under three years, and can be just one. Those who do survive longer will suffer severely at the hands of the side effects, which could lead to a need to amputate limbs if infection sets in.
What are the Krokodil withdrawal symptoms?
Krokodil is an even harder substance than heroin to give up. Withdrawal symptoms can start just two hours after the drug is taken, as its euphoric effect does not last long. The duration of painful withdrawal symptoms is even worse than with heroin. While heroin users commonly experience symptoms of withdrawal for between a week and ten days, Krokodil withdrawal can last for up to a month.
Without special addiction treatment, it is incredibly hard for Krokodil addicts to kick their habit.
1 – http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/16/health/krokodil-zombie-drug/index.html
2 – http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2013/12/10/why-are-millions-addicted-to-a-drug-that-eats-the-flesh-off-their-bones/
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