Authorities Wary as Designer Drug “Krokodil” Appears on American Streets

Updated May 2021

Authorities wary as a designer drug “krokodil” appears on American streets. Time magazine calls the Russian drug krokodil “the most horrifying drug in the world.” Its name comes from the gangrenous scales that appear on the skin of krokodil users – before the skin begins to decay. It’s more addictive than heroin. It can cause necrosis and skin cell decay and can even make your bones dissolve. Our drug and alcohol treatment center in Palm Beach is looking into krokodil and the various problems it can cause.

What Is The Drug Krokodil and Where Does it Come From?

The krokodil drug was originally cooked up in Russia in the early 2000s as a cheap alternative to heroin. Krokodil (pronounced “crocodile”) is an opioid drug and desomorphine, which is an injective derivative of morphine. Desomorphine is synthetic morphine that was originally patented in the U.S. in the 1930s. It is about 10 times more powerful than morphine and acts very quickly within the body.

Krokodil works like other opioids by attaching itself to opioid receptors in the brain, disrupting communication between neurons. The factor that makes krokodil so addictive is the increase in dopamine levels it causes. Dopamine is a chemical that’s released by the brain when we do something we enjoy. Krokodil causes a dopamine spike, producing feelings of euphoria and pleasure. These side effects are what make krokodil so addictive.

Some common krokodil drug ingredients include:

  • Over-the-counter codeine pills
  • Iodine
  • Household chemicals and cleaners
  • Hydrochloric acid
  • Phosphorous
  • Gasoline
  • Paint thinner
  • & More

In Russia, where krokodil drugs have gained popularity for more than a decade among young adults, it’s used as a cheaper and more potent option than heroin. Krokodil is 10 times cheaper than heroin and produces a stronger, but shorter high. Short-term use of krokodil can quickly lead to rotting flesh and other skin disorders. The function of the brain and central nervous system as a whole is also greatly affected by opioids. At Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches, we offer a medically monitored detox that aids patients in the withdrawal process and offers them a safe and secure first step in addiction treatment.

What Are the Effects of Krokodil Drug?

When considering krokodil side effects, it must be pointed out that many users are making the drug in home labs, meaning that krokodil products sold on the streets often contain additives or cutting agents. Krokodil cutting agents like gasoline or paint thinner can be toxic to the user, increasing the likelihood of physical complications, overdose, and death. Despite these possible health risks, the cheaper costs of krokodil compared to heroin attract users far more than its side effects scare them.

Common krokodil effects include:

  • Feelings of euphoria and pleasure
  • Relaxation
  • Shallow breathing
  • Blood vessel damage
  • Skin grafts
  • Pneumonia
  • Blood poisoning
  • Meningitis
  • Rotting gums
  • Tooth loss
  • Bone infections
  • Memory loss
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Overdose
  • Death

The krokodil drug effects begin immediately, but the high is short-lived, typically lasting for up to two hours. This tends to push users into a cycle of repetitive use, exacerbating any potential health issues. People who inject this drug develop krokodil skin, which is characterized by discolored scale-like skin and extreme skin ulcerations. The long-term effects of krokodil can lead to serious vein damage, soft tissue infections, krokodil necrosis, and increased chances of limb amputation.

Is Krokodil In The U.S.?

In 2011, 65 million doses of krokodil were seized in Russia.1 It’s no wonder the authorities wary as the designer drug “krokodil” appears on American streets. Cases of poisoning from and even possible fatalities from krokodil have begun to spring up across the United States, with reports in areas like Arizona, Illinois, and Oklahoma. Part of the issue in identifying the prevalence of krokodil in the U.S. is the extremely short half-life of the drug. By the time toxicology screens and autopsies can be performed, it may have already flushed out of the victim’s body. Another concern is that authorities have yet to seize any samples of krokodil in drug busts, so there is no official confirmation of the drug’s presence in the US from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

In Europe, a dose of krokodil costs just a few dollars compared to $20 for a hit of heroin. A potential nightmare scenario for the United States would be for heroin users to switch to krokodil; which is exactly what’s happened. A large portion of heroin addicts caught in the current U.S. epidemic turned to the drug after first becoming addicted to prescription painkillers. Reports from victims in Illinois indicate that krokodil is being sold as regular heroin there, and possibly elsewhere in the country. Heroin use in the United States has been a major concern over the last few years, as it has seen a recent upswing in popularity with America’s youth. If krokodil is out on the streets, masquerading as cheap heroin, we could soon be seeing a rise in fatalities.

Krokodil Addiction Treatment and Education Available at BHOPB

Krokodil is undoubtedly stronger than heroin, is cheaper, and can be made using products the average person can find in their home. Krokodil is a scary alternative that many addicts who have developed a heroin addiction are willing to try. The best way to prevent drug use, abuse, and addiction is through education. Experimental users, addicts, and their families need to be educated about the potential dangers of substance abuse, the progressive nature of drug use, and the disease of addiction.

We offer various forms of addiction care, including opioid addiction treatment that can help individuals dependent on drugs like heroin and krokodil. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to heroin, prescription painkillers, cocaine, alcohol, or any other drug, the team at BHOPB has the experience, knowledge, and compassion you need. Call us now at 561-220-3981 to begin learning more about our addiction treatment programs in Palm Beach.