It's been called "the most horrible drug in the world," eating the flesh off of users from the inside out, and giving them a life expectancy of two years. Addicts in Russia have been using it for years, but now physicians in the U.S. say "Krokodil" has reached U.S. soil. But, the DEA says not so fast. U.S. Drug officials say they have not seen any cases and they don't see it as "an immediate threat." But, Oklahoma officials do.
The experts in Oklahoma say we're all just a click-of-the-mouse away from learning how to make krokodil or any of the new versions of it, and just because U.S. officials haven't seen the exact form of krokodil used in Russia, it doesn't mean there isn't a serious cause for concern.
"We've had some people in Oklahoma... we're not sure if they tried exactly that or something similar, but it ended with several people dying in the burn unit," says Dr. William Banner, Medical Director of the Oklahoma Poison Control Center. Though there have been no confirmed cases in Oklahoma, he says he's seen patients who look very similar. "What we're seeing are the results of the skin damage and (them) getting infections and then dying from the burns. It is so heavily contaminated and causes so much damage to the skin when it's injected that it leaves the skin disfigured," he says.
The poor man's heroin, krokodil is made by cooking prescription codeine with chemicals like gasoline or lighter fluid, which is then injected into the body. "Every day we're seeing new overdose deaths or emergency reports of brand new concoctions," says Mark Woodward, spokesperson for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics (OBN). He says he's gotten witness testimonies and anecdotal reports after deaths-- people claiming their loved one died from krokodil, but nothing has ever been confirmed. He says it's difficult to keep up. "Two years ago, down in Konawa, two kids died at a party from something that was purchased off the Internet by a friend called Bromo Dragonfly. We'd never heard of this until two kids ended up dead," says Woodward.
With Oklahomans dying from the results of krokodil-like burns, Dr. Banner says it's difficult to link krokodil to their deaths by the time they reach the E.R. "It doesn't last that long in the urine, so unless someone came in acutely intoxicated, we wouldn't come in contact with them in the medical profession. Routine hospital laboratories are not going to be able to detect desomorphine. The drug is long gone. It just leaves behind all of this residual damage," says Dr. Banner.
OBN is out on the streets, trying to track down and confirm the deadly drug. "We get reports from high schools, from out on the streets, and the hospitals," says Woodward. But, keeping up with the latest drug isn't a game that's easily won. "Unfortunately, there's going to be a lot of these drugs we don't find out about until there's a death," he says.
If you'd like to learn more about krokodil and it's effects, click here.
If you'd like to see the very graphic effects of the drug krokodil, click here, but remember-- It's very graphic.
To learn more about the DEA's stance on krokodil, click here.