The creation of drugs to mimic the effects of existing drugs is dangerous.
The latest case is desomorphine, also known as Krokodil (pronounced crocodile) that was created to mimic the effects of heroin. The drug is injectable, like heroin, and has the same high risk for rapid and intense addiction. Unlike heroin though, desomorphine is now connected to the eating of its user’s flesh.
The Flesh-Eating Drug
After using desomorphine even just a few times, people are seeking medical attention for black and green scaly growths on parts of their skin. The drug is harming the soft tissue at the injection point and is being found to clump in the user’s veins when it is not fully dissolving into the bloodstream. The built-up clumps of desomorphine are then traveling through the body and sticking to random places, which then causes harm to the flesh at that spot.
Reports of Desomorphine Abuse in the United States
In one weekend, five people were hospitalized for treatment of these scaly physical symptoms in Joliet, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. When asked, these five people said they believed the drug they purchased was heroin. Similar stories and physical reactions have been reported in parts of Arizona and Oklahoma. Internist, Dr. Abhin Singla, at Presence St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet told CNN that, “It’s a zombie drug — it literally kills you from the inside out. If you want way to die, this is a way to die.”
While these five cases were all linked to desomorphine use, the DEA is still not confirming any cases of Krokodil abuse in the United States. Without a sample of the drug that caused the problem, the DEA will not officially connect the drug to the physical effects being treated.
In Oklahoma City, one young woman reported that her best friend died from Krokodil abuse. Medical case professionals who treated the friend say that something was eating the body from the inside out. After further investigation, the symptoms were linked directly to the drug, but were again disputed after an autopsy. The death was ruled a drug overdose, without specifically naming any substance.
More cases of Krokodil abuse have surfaced in the Ukraine and in Russia than in the U.S. thus far. The International Journal of Drug Policy published an article reporting that 20,000 people in the Ukraine and 100,000 people in Russia injected desomorphine in 2011.
Why People Are Using Desomorphine
When heroin has become less available, people are looking for substitutes. Krokodil is cheaper than heroin, it can be manufactured at home (much like crystal meth), and it has become more accessible than heroin in various areas of the world. As users start to experience painful withdrawal symptoms from heroin, or any other opiate drug in its class, every day becomes about medicating the body’s reaction to no drugs. This is done by using another opiate.
Dr. Singla weighs in by saying, “I think it’s the tip of the iceberg; I think it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. I think if it [Krokodil] stays on the market long enough, you’re going to have people who are desperate addicts that can’t support their heroin habit but can utilize this drug, not really caring about the consequences, and get the same high for a third of the price.”
Addiction specialists in the United States are hoping desomorphine does not become popular here. If you know anyone who is abusing opiates, acting now can prevent the progression from heroin and prescription painkillers to drugs like desomorphine.
The treatment team at Balboa Horizons is prepared to help you determine the next best step. Opiate addiction is debilitating. The sooner you intervene, the sooner healing can begin.