Krokodil drug: What is it?

Originally from Russia, drug krokodil has hit the U.S. By eroding the tissue first around the injection site, the drug is systematically taking out large chunks of flesh. What is it? Why do people use it? More here.

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Zombie Drug Finds Home in the United States

As zombies crawl or stagger their way across our television screens, it seems increasingly improbable that we’d be shocked by anything resembling such creatures were we presented with it in real life. Perhaps this is because it seems so impossible—the idea of a zombie-like thing approaching us in real. But we’re seeing a form of it, this zombification of the human body in the new-to-the-United States drug krokodil.

The drug krokodil: What’s in it?

The drug, desomorphine, causes scaly and disintegrating skin, but works from the inside out, essentially rotting flesh and blood. First, the soft, fleshy tissue around the site of injection is damaged. Next, the drug clumps in the veins, failing to dissolve entirely into the blood. These chunks move to other places in the body and damage the tissue around their landing site. The decay begins. Google it if you want to see photographs, but be prepared to lose your lunch. Krokodil is not a drug for the weak-stomached.

But desomorphine is also referred to as a zombie drug because it has a short half-life, which means the drug is acquired and administered on repeat, which leaves little time for anything besides withdrawal and reacquisition of the substance, thus creating zombies. There’s also an incredibly high mortality rate among users of krokodil—most addicts die within two years.

Why are people using krokodil?

Though the destruction is terrible and terrifying, the drug is gaining popularity around the world, even appearing in the United States. Like heroin but even cheaper, krokodil can be manufactured in someone’s home, much like methamphetamine. Consisting of codeine and available chemicals (which might include iodine, kitchen and bathroom cleaners, hydrochloric acid, gasoline, paint thinner, and red phosphorous, etc.) the drug is extremely dangerous.

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In the United States, krokodil is being called “poor man’s meth”, which is really saying something, given the nature of meth and meth addiction. Now, law enforcement officials are learning that it may have been in the US for longer than originally thought—a few years, even. Right now, reported cases are limited to Arizona, Utah (still under investigation), Illinois, and Oklahoma.

It’s gaining popularity among young people and also the very poor. No one is taking the drug casually, either. It’s an all or nothing addiction, and it’s killing too many. And, unlike zombies, they’re not coming back.

Krokodil questions

If you or someone you know is at risk, don’t hesitate to seek treatment. And please leave your questions about krokodil below. We’ll do our best to respond to you personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: Daily Mail: Krokodil Drug Cases Suspected

CNN: Kokodil Zombie Drug

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About the author
Emma Haylett is a secret poet and a public advocate for dual diagnosis drug therapy. When she isn't trying to explain the true meaning of song lyrics, you can find her writing for Inspire Malibu.


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  1. Excellent points! Like many drugs, the danger of Krokodil is in the misuse and mis-manufacturing of a combination of substances.

  2. Desomorphine will not cause scaly skin or gangrene by itself. The symptoms manifested in the form of rotting flesh are due to improper manufacture of the drug by amateurs, typically due to the ingredients used, ie cough syrupd containing codeine, iodine and red phosphorous from matches. Krokodil (NOT DESOMORPHINE) may also contain ingredients such as caffeine, paracetamol, or diphenhydramine (coincidentally an opioid potentiator); while chemicals such as tropicamide, found in “prescription-only” diagnostic eyedrops, may also be added to the mixture in attempt to prolong or enhance the experience.

    Krokodil, the street name for desomorphine produced ineffectively, will indeed cause these symptoms if steps are not taken to purify the drug. Desormorphine itself, however, will do nothing of the sort.

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