The pictures below may be disturbing to some. They are at the bottom of the article so that there are no surprises for those who would be upset by them.
The rate of heroin addiction in Russia has reached epidemic proportions and as the government tries to crack down on the supply, demand leads the user to try a new drug known for its terrifying tendency to be so poisonous that it rots the skin off those addicted to it.
The street name of the drug is Krokodil, named so for its nearly immediate effect on the skin, which takes on a grey, scaly appearance. Its active component is desomorphine, a chemical that can easily be derived from codeine. Codeine pills can be purchased in Russia with little difficulty as they require no prescription and are very cheap.
Reduction in the amount of heroin available in Russia has driven the street price up to the point where many who are addicted are no longer able to afford the drug. Their financial difficulties do little to curb their need for the drug, especially considering how painful withdrawal can be. Since codeine is so cheap and readily available, many have turned to cooking Krokodil on their own.
This trend has been building for the last five years, with an especial hike in the frequency of use during the last year. It is more debilitating than heroin, however, and the consequences of using the drug make it truly terrifying. Much like crystal meth, the cook at home formula calls for some pretty hazardous chemicals to be used. Ingredients like gasoline and hydrochloric acid make the finished product extremely toxic.
It is then injected into the vein where it damages the body considerably. This terrifying drug rots the skin of the user, causing a new epidemic among heroin addicts in Russia. Gangrene sets into limbs, the skin blackens then falls away, leaving exposed bone. As the pictures (below) demonstrate, this is a terrible fate and a testament to how very ill drug addiction can make a person become.
Brain damage is also swift and drastic. A documentary on the drug interviewed two young men who had been using krokodil for a year and were so disabled by the damage done to their brains that they relied on their mother for care and could barely communicate. They were described as “krokodil zombies.”
Further exacerbating the problem is the highly addictive quality of the drug itself, coupled with its short duration and quick onset of withdrawal. Withdrawal is described as very painful and long lasting and with the ease of acquisition of the drug, relapse is common. Treatment centers are available but they are not regulated by the government and often only offer the “cold turkey” approach to getting clean.
The vicious cycle of the short high and severe withdrawal means that addiction to krokodil is even more consuming than addiction to heroin. Because of the extreme toxicity of the components used to make the drug and the rapid cycle of use, life expectancy of those addicted to it is shortened to a staggering one to three years. In Russia, it is a drug epidemic worse than heroin, terrifying in its ability to rot the user from within and deadly in a way that no other drug has paralleled.
Written by: Vanessa Blanchard