By Maggie Tan
The flesh-rotting drug ‘krokodil’ – or desomorphine – appeared in Siberia and Russia around 2002 and is now widely used in the poor rural areas of Russia. The first cases of krokodil have recently emerged in the United States and they have been met with panic and investigation. This raises the question whether the drug will become popular in the US.
Krokodil earns it name due to the way it alters the users’ bodies. Not only does the drug turn the skin of its users green and scaly, but it also leads to “serious damage to the veins and soft tissue infections, rapidly followed by gangrene and necrosis”, says CNN. Krokodil can also cause other irreversible damage, such as speech impediments and erratic movement. Said side effects of the drug have led the media to name krokodil ‘the zombie drug’.
Krokodil could be cooked up just by combining codeine from painkillers with other readily available ingredients, such as iodine, gasoline, paint thinner, alcohol or oil. This deadly concoction is then injected into the veins leading to a high that is similar to heroin. However, compared to heroin, krokodil is not only easier to make, but also far less expensive.
Despite its disturbing side effects, the use of krokodil has not slowed in Russia. Victor Ivanov of the Federal Drug Control Service told Time that “since 2009, the amount of the drug seized has increased 23-fold”. Furthermore, an overwhelming 65 million doses of the drug was confiscated in the first quarter of 2011. As of 2012, the sale of medicines containing codeine without prescription is banned in Russia.
Although krokodil is not yet a controlled substance in the United States, the DEA does not believe that the drug will grow popular in the US. Whereas Russia has a shortage of heroin, there is an abundance of heroin and other opiate drugs in the US. Nevertheless, there is still anxiety over the use of krokodil in the US, as krokodil is a cheaper substitute for heroin and can be marketed as such, attracting addicts who are inclined to use.