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“Krokodil” gains ground

By Staff | Oct 18, 2013

There is a new drug out there, one that should definitely be Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act. Recently the media has reported just how much harm it has started to do. If not taken off of the streets, it could do even more.

The drug in question is known as desomorphine. It was invented in the U.S. in 1932 as an opiate analogue that is more potent than morphine. In Switzerland, it was used under the name Permonid, where its sedative and analgesic effects were found to come on faster and last in a duration shorter than morphine, but with not as much hyperventilating or nausea (New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services). In Russia and the Ukraine, it has shown to be used extensively, especially when heroin is in short supply. (NY OASAS also reported that opiate abuse is “significant” in Russia, due in part to how close Russia is to Afghanistan.)

However, it could also be made at home with codeine-based medicines combined with other solvents and chemicals and “cooked” in similar fashion to methamphetamine. Prepared this way, the drug is known as “krokodil” (pronounced like “crocodile”). As reported by CNN, a 2011 study found that 120,000 in Russia and the Ukraine combined injected the drug. (Injection is the main way it gets into the body.) Recently it has started gaining ground in the U.S., where some users have mistaken it for heroin and have been experiencing nasty, and potentially deadly side effects.

The Neitzels, a family of self-professed heroin addicts as reported about by Time, CBS and other outlets, are users who fit into that mold. Amber, one of the daughters, said that injection marks are similar to a “cigarette burn”. Over the course of a year, there were dark, scaly spots on their legs and arms. When they went into treatment at Presence St. Joseph Medical Center in Joilet, Ill., Angie (another daughter) required emergency surgery on her legs while Amber was reported to have gangrene on both her arms and legs. (Gangrene is an infection that causes necrosis, also known as cell death.)

Despite how cheap it is (supposedly it costs three times less than heroin), the drug destroys tissues, essentially “eating” the body from the inside out. It also makes users more prone to HIV, hepatitis, blood-borne diseases, and compromised immune systems. According to both Time and USA Today, a Russian addict named Irina Pavlova had been using for over six years (three times the average life expectancy for a krokodil user) and has brain damage. Due to the damage she has a speech impediment and impaired motor skills. Most of the addicts she used the drug with died either due to the effects of the drug or the co-morbidities associated with its use.

Here’s hoping that this drug doesn’t end up here; in this town, in this county, in this state.

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