Real Talk: The Average Lifespan of a Krokodil User?

The Average Lifespan of a Krokodil User

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How long can you use krokodil before you die from an overdose or side effects? Opioids are the deadliest class of drugs in the United States, and krokodil is no different. Generally speaking, the average lifespan of a krokodil user is less than three years.

Krokodil is the Russian word for “crocodile.” This name is also used to refer to desomorphine, a powerful and destructive synthetic opioid. The name comes from the drug’s biting effect on the skin. Injections cause blood vessels to burst and soft tissue to rot, leaving black or green scales in their wake. As the skin continues to die, it may eventually fall off the body altogether.

Sadly, people are still using it despite its horrific consequences because it is a cheap alternative to heroin. Read on to learn the background, effects, and consequences of using this frightening, flesh-eating drug. 

What is Krokodil?

Desomorphine is a synthetic morphine analog, rather than being naturally derived from plants. While it was first developed in the 1930s, the drug as it is known today appeared in Russian in the early 2000s. Back then, there were few users outside of Russia and Ukraine. However, there has been an increasing number of deaths and cases of people using krokodil in America in recent years.

In 2013, three cases of the flesh-eating drug were found in Chicago. Dubbed by the media as a “zombie drug,” Krokodil is so destructive because it destroys blood vessels and rots a person from inside out. The shocking appearance of their skin is only minor compared to what’s going on inside their bodies.

Krokodil is made by combining crushed codeine pills with substances like gasoline, cooking oil, and lighter fluid. Together, these ingredients create an injectable drug that is cheaper and more addictive than heroin. The resulting substance may appeal to someone who has been using heroin or other opioids and is now desperate for a more potent high or more affordable substitute.

What Does Krokodil Do to the Body?

The effects of Krokodil on the physical body are shocking. It can leave rotting (gangrene) sores, open wounds, and infected injection sites filled with bacteria and pus (abscesses). The green, scale-like textures on the skin are caused by chemicals of the drug that fail to dissolve into the bloodstream. Eventually, clumps of liquid make their way to the body’s organs, which they will potentially destroy. 

You don’t have to use Krokodil long to experience its side effects. Your skin will start to change after only one injection. Using the drug for any period after the first injection can lead to permanent tissue damage, organ failure, and eventually death.

Life-threatening conditions caused by krokodil can include:

  • Blood poisoning (sepsis)
  • Lung disease and failure
  • Liver, kidney, and brain damage
  • Bone death that requires amputation
  • Pneumonia and other lung infections
  • Bone infections (osteomyelitis) at injection sites

Extending the Average Lifespan of a Krokodil User with Treatment

As a drug ten times more potent than the prescription painkiller morphine, krokodil is more life-threatening and much harder to stop using. The addictive power over its users causes them to continue taking the drug even as their bodies fall apart.

Even with a drug as severe as krokodil, it’s never too late to beat addiction. Left unchecked, substance abuse will last a lifetime, but there are ways to get help and turn things around. The first step is to reach out and seek treatment for your opioid addiction. 

Drug treatment programs with medical detox start by administering the treatments you need to prevent further damage. Once the drug is out of your system, a team of doctors and nurses can work on addressing the physical side effects of your use.

With mental health counseling, those in recovery learn how to process and overcome addiction and avoid relapsing in the future. It takes time, but no one is so far down the path to get help if they truly want it. Because of the short average lifespan of a Krokodil user, there is no time to waste. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, contact our professional staff today. 



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