Desomorphine or krokodil is a home-cooked opiate-based drug that is reportedly up to ten-times stronger than heroin and many times cheaper and toxic. The effects of the drug are both terrifying and fatal. The name Krokodil comes from the reaction the drug on the users body – skin will become greenish and scaly from use of the drug, like that of a crocodile.
Krokodil is increasingly being used by heroin addicts in parts of Europe as a replacement for heroin but the horrific effects the drug has on the body mean that users don’t have their addiction very long. Users will often die within 2 years of using this home-made drug that is a combination of pain medication and toxic chemicals.
Combining Toxic Chemicals and Pain Medication
Desomorphine is typically home made and can be made from a combination of codeine-based tablets, paint thinner, lighter fluid, gasoline, hydrochloric acid, red phosphorous (scraped from matchboxes) and iodine. The result of the cooking of pain tablets and chemicals is a toxic and highly addictive drug.
Users often continuously cook up the drug in their kitchen to ensure they can maintain their high. The caramel-colored liquid is injected into damaged and gangrenous areas giving users a high that will last 30 minutes at most.
The toxic nature of these chemicals in krokodil cause users skin to change color, turn scaly and eventually become gangrenous. Users skin will be covered in ulcerations around the injection sites as blood vessels rupture and cause tissue to die. Photographs suggest that users skin will be eaten away by the chemicals in the drug which rots flesh to the bone. Users teeth with literally rot out of their heads, brain damage is common and tetanus and blood poisoning is nearly assured.
Reports suggest that the use of krokodil is increasing in poor regions such as isolated parts of Russia where heroin is difficult to find. Up to 5 per cent of Russian drug users reportedly are now using krokodil or other home-made drugs. According to drug workers, krokodil has higher addiction rates and is harder to get off of than heroin. Users will go through severe and painful withdrawals for up to a month after stopping use, but the long term effects of the drug will last longer. Brain damage, hepatitis, rotted teeth, amputations are some of the side effects.
Krokodil has, despite the horrific reactions and side effects, increased in use in Europe since 2002. It is believed that this increase is related to the successes of drug-enforcement programs that have quelled the influx of heroin into countries such as Russia. Heroin addiction treatment in Russia is also underfunded and it should be noted that methadone therapy is illegal, and needle-exchange programs have previously been prosecuted for supporting drug abuse. As a result of work of drug agencies, plus the lack of effective rehabilitation programs in these countries, heroin users have turned to cooking krokodil as a way to deal with their addiction.