Over the past month several cases of Krokodil use in US cities were reported to the Drug Enforcement Agency. Krokodil is a dangerous, addictive opiate, similar to heroin, that launches the user into a 90-minute to two-hour intense high. The effects from using the drug are physically painful and can cause irreversible damage to the internal and external body. Krokodil turns skin gray, green or blue, before the skin rots away to expose the bone, induces sores and skin ulcers, causes internal vein and tissue damage, and causes organ failure.
There have been several reported cases of Krokodil usage in Arizona, Missouri, Illinois and Ohio. The DEA is unable to confirm the cases without linking a specimen of Krokodil to the people exhibiting symptoms, and thus has not been able to confirm any of the recent reported cases. The only confirmed US cases occurred in 2004.
Krokodil is created in a lab using easily accessible and cheap ingredients. Krokodil requires at least 30 minutes to congeal into a substance that is usually injected intravenously. The foundation of Krokodil is over-the-counter codeine, or another structurally similar painkiller. Codeine is then combined with other synthetic chemicals such as lighter fluid, cleaning oils, iodine, red phosphorus, or other chemicals. The mixture of these chemicals creates the compound desomorphine, which is chemically related to morphine.
Although desomorphine is related to morphine, studies on laboratory animals suggest that it is more potent. There is not a medically approved usage for desomorphine in the US. Since 1936, desmorphine has been a controlled substance. In Switzerland, however, desomorphine has been medically used under the name Permonid.
Krokodil spurned in Eastern Europe in the early 2000s. The most concentrated usage is now in Russia and Ukraine. Viktor Ivanov, head of the Russia’s Drug Control Agency, noted a rise in Krokodil usage over the last four months, and predicts that five percent of Russians using drugs use Krokodil and other related substances. The cheapness of the drug encourages people to choose Krokodil over heroin. Krokodil is sold for one thirtieth of the price of heroin in Russia.
The Russian Krokodil epidemic mainly affects Russians living in working-poor, isolated areas of the country, and working-poor areas of cities such as Tver. President Dmitry Medvedev declared that websites with Krokodil recipes should be taken down, but he has not called for any restrictions around the accessibility of Codeine-like pills that are sold widely and cheaply throughout Russia.
The US is not experiencing, or close to experiencing, a Krokodil epidemic proportionate to Russia’s. The inexpensiveness, cheap ingredients, and quickness of the lab drug’s creation, however, pose concerns.