A frightening and potentially deadly drug is creating alerting buzz across the United States. Also known as the “flesh-eating” or “flesh rotting drug,” Krokodil is causing quite the stir up in the country. What makes this drug so dangerous is that most Krokodil addicts can make the substance in their homes, and it’s significantly cheaper than other drugs, such as heroin. Let’s explore some of the dangers Krokodil addicts face and how to help someone struggling with a substance use disorder.
What is Krokodil?
Let’s start with the basics, Krokodil is an injectable opioid derivative of codeine, however, the main ingredient is desomorphine (dihydrodesoxymorphine). The name “Krokodil” comes from the appearance of a user’s skin around the injection site, which becomes discolored and scaly. Others believe it’s a reference to chlorocodide, a codeine derivate used in the production of desomorphine. Krokodil is a Schedule I Substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in the United States, which means it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medicinal use.
On the streets, users find it as:
- Russian magic
- Poor man’s heroin
How is Krokodil Made?
Krokodil is made by taking codeine-based pills and dissolving them in gasoline or paint thinner. Iodine and Phosphorus are then added to the concoction. There are several other steps (omitted here, so no one decides to cook Krokodil based on this article).
The drug initially spread across Russia, with over 100,000 reporting using the drug in 2011. Although Desomorphine has been around since the 1930s, Krokodil only came into production during the early 2000s in Siberia. This is thought to have been because of a global heroin shortage, mixed with the difficulty of smuggling drugs to Siberia. Today, it’s estimated there are over one million Krokodil addicts in Russia.
It takes roughly 45 minutes to produce Krokodil, which is why Krokodil addicts can easily maintain their addiction. However, most users turn to toxic ingredients such as household cleaners, gasoline, hydrochloric acids, and even cigarette ash to create their mix.
In its purest form, desomorphine can be 10 times stronger than morphine and 3 times more potent than heroin. The drug’s onset is very fast but its action is short, which leads to frequent administration and an increased risk of developing physical dependence.
Krokodil is attractive to those seeking a euphoric high because it is cheap, relatively easy to make or obtain, produces a high similar to that of heroin, and delivers potent sedative and pain-relieving effects in the user.
How Addictive is Krokodil?
Because Krokodil is so fast-acting, it’s highly addictive and most people develop a physical dependence rather quickly. Because this drug produces such an intense “high” and lasts for a few hours, users crave more and more to maintain the experience. Prolonged use also helps Krokodil addicts prevent withdrawal symptoms.
Additionally, Krokodil is far cheaper than heroin and easy to make at home. Those looking to maintain their addiction, despite the consequences, are likely to turn to Krokodil as their chosen drug.
The Dangerous Side Effects of Krokodil
Krokodil has a very fast onset of about 2-3 minutes and lasts for approximately 2 hours. The drug, while cheap, produces a relatively short high, and various media sources have covered stories about addicted individuals who need to frequently administer the drug to maintain their high and avoid withdrawal.
Because most Krokodil addicts are intravenous drug users, they’re more likely to damage their veins and struggle with skin infections. These infections can quickly move to other areas and cause organ damage.
Some of the most dangerous effects of Krokodil include:
- Skin infections
- Soft-tissue infections
- Thrombophlebitis (inflammation of the veins or track marks)
- Skin ulcerations
- Necrosis (death of living tissue)
- Skin abscesses
- Speech impediments
- Slow and shallow breathing
- Pain and swelling at the injection site
Long-term effects of Krokodil abuseinclude:
- Blood clots
- Severe tissue damage
- Memory loss
- Bone damage
- Physical dependence
Not to mention, IV drug users are also at higher risk to contract HIV, hepatitis C virus (HCV), and other blood-borne illnesses. Even short-term Krokodil use can lead to severe health complications and even death. Krokodil addicts also are at higher risk of early death, with most people experiencing fatalities within 2-3 years of the first dose.
Krokodil Withdrawal Symptoms
Although Krokodil doesn’t produce any life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, they’re extremely uncomfortable. It’s easy for Krokodil addicts struggling with withdrawal symptoms to relapse and continue their abuse, often suffering a fatal overdose as they try to recreate the high.
Most Krokodil withdrawal symptoms mimic those of morphine, including:
- Muscle aches
- Abdominal Cramping
- Flu-like symptoms
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dilated pupils
- Increased tearing
Why is it Called a “Zombie Drug?”
The media chose the name “zombie drug” to talk about Krokodil, mostly because Krokodil addicts have gangrene and eschars or dead patches of skin on their bodies. The skin of Krokodil injection users often turns black, grey, and green, scabby, and flaky. People say it resembles the skin of a crocodile.
While Krokodil cases are limited, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) had not confirmed any case of Krokodil death as of 2013.
How Krokodil Addicts Can Seek Help
If you or someone you know is struggling with a Krokodil addiction the first step to seek help is to find a medically-assisted detox program. These programs provide medical and clinical care for withdrawal symptoms so people can safely and comfortably start their rehab journey. Detox is also paramount to prevent relapse by providing professional support in a clinical environment.
After detox, most people move to a drug rehab program. Long-term addiction treatment involves looking at the underlying causes of addiction. Krokodil rehab can take on many different forms, it depends on your treatment needs, resources available, and more. However, most addiction treatment centers will have the right programs for Krokodil addiction.
It’s paramount to speak with an addiction treatment specialist to determine the best way to start seeking help for addiction.
Most intravenous drug abusers often struggle with various substances. When they try to quit on their own, they’re likely to experience potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms. To ensure someone withdraws from a substance safely, medical detox programs monitor the process and often use medication-assisted treatment to ensure a comfortable and stable detoxing. Those who enroll in medical detox programs are less likely to experience an instant relapse, thus improving their chances of long-term recovery.
Of course, detox isn’t the only step for drug addiction recovery. Most intravenous drug users will likely start their recovery journey through an inpatient rehab program. Here, they’ll receive the structure, guidance, and support they need to move away from substance abuse and start looking into sobriety.
Once they complete an inpatient program, they’re likely to continue their recovery journey through an intensive outpatient program or an outpatient program setting. These types of programs offer some structure but maintain some flexibility to allow patients to return to their daily responsibilities, such as work, family, and school.
Similar to most addictions, it’s common for recovering intravenous drug addicts to go back to an unhealthy environment after rehab. Most will still have friends that remain being drug users and that increases their chances of relapse. Aftercare programs help those in recovery maintain their structure, continue to work on learning coping and trigger-controlling skills, and more. These programs can provide a unique opportunity to help users maintain their long-term sobriety.
Get Help Today
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, seek help immediately. Call Lighthouse Recovery Institute today and speak with our addiction center specialists to learn more about our comprehensive and personalized addiction treatment programs.
Our philosophy revolves around treating each patient on a case-by-case scenario because we know no two addiction stories are alike. Start walking towards your recovery, and we’ll be here supporting you and your family every step of the way. Please don’t wait for another day to start addiction treatment–your life depends on it.