Krokodil (desomorphine) is the most dangerous street drug in the world, and there are now concerns that it has arrived in the UK. There are already reports of deaths from this drug in the US. The life expectancy for people who begin abusing krokodil is 2 years – it causes the body to rot away from the inside.
Desomorphine is best known by the Russian name ‘krokodil’, which means ‘crocodile’. It has acquired this name because one of the negative effects of the drug is that it causes the skin of the person abusing it to develop a scale-like appearance. It is a type of opiate that creates a similar high to heroin – just even more intense. Desomorphine is ten times more potent than regular morphine, and it is very fast acting. The high from this drug only lasts about ninety minutes; this is much less than the heroin high, which can last for about six hours.
Krokodil is made in a similar way to methamphetamine, involving the combination of codeine with red phosphorous and iodine. It is relatively easy for individuals to make this drug at home using codeine, lighter fluid, and petrol, but it includes many toxic and corrosive substances when done this way. It only takes about 30 minutes to make and all the ingredients are easy to obtain.
It is the fact that krokodil is made by users at home that makes it so dangerous. All the ingredients are just mixed together with very little attempt to purify this concoction before injecting into the body. This means that this toxic substance can easily do damage to the skin, very quickly leading to gangrene. It is common for users to have their skin break down all the way to the bone, developing many opportunistic infections; many users require limb amputations.
The most horrifying aspect of krokodil use is that users can have huge open sores all over their body yet feel unable to stop injecting themselves with the drug. Even when they have limbs amputated and know they are close to death, they still feel compelled to continue abusing the drug.
Desomorphine was created back in 1932, but there are no reports of illegal use until 2002. The first cases of this type of drug abuse occurred in Siberia where it soon began to develop a fierce reputation for being so dangerous. The reason it became so popular was that it was so cheap to make; drug users in Siberia also turned to it because they were finding it so hard to obtain heroin. There are also reports of krokodil being available in Poland and other parts of Europe where there is a Russian community. The first two cases of krokodil use were reported in the US last month (September 2013) when two people in Illinois required hospitalisation.
There are now also reports of krokodil use in the UK, particularly around the Gloucester area. There are fears that this type of drug abuse is about to explode, leading to many casualties. There have not yet been any confirmed cases, but there have been drug users turning up at hospitals with the type of wounds that are associated with this type of drug abuse. It is a very worrying situation because if krokodil does become popular, it is sure to lead to the death of many people. There is also the concern that dealers may decide to start cutting heroin with krokodil to increase their profits.