Sometimes referred to as “the world’s deadliest drug” or “the zombie drug,” krokodil has become one of the most potent and dangerous drugs in the world. The krokodil drug’s active ingredient is desomorphine, a semi-synthetic opioid developed as a cheap and more potent alternative to morphine.
However, its sometimes-fatal side effects, combined with its incredibly addictive properties have made it the scourge of intravenous drug users throughout Russia, Europe, and parts of the Western U.S.
What is Krokodil?
Pronounced “crocodile,” krokodil is the common street name for the drug Desomorphine, a semi-synthetic opioid. Developed and tested throughout Europe as a stronger alternative to morphine, the drug’s effects were temporary and short-acting. This, alongside concerns regarding its potential for abuse, led to its discontinuation in 1981.
However, in the past decade, medical cases involving Desomorphine began springing up throughout Russia. (The name “krokodil” comes from the Russian word for crocodile.) It was later discovered the people illegally produced the drug as a cheap alternative to heroin.
With its fast-acting sedative effects, krokodil has gained a reputation for its highly addictive properties and the scale-like sores that develop around the point of injection. In recent years, krokodil has made its way to the U.S. and has been found in Utah, Arizona, and Illinois. Krokodil is designated a Schedule I drug in the Federal Controlled Substances Act.
How is Krokodil Made?
Krokodil is typically used intravenously. Like methamphetamine, krokodil is made for cheap with cold medications—codeine is especially popular—and other widely available, over-the-counter ingredients. The drug is made by “cooking” codeine with an organic solvent like paint thinner, hydrochloric acid, or gasoline. This process takes between 10 and 45 minutes.
What are the Effects of the Krokodil Drug?
According to reports, krokodil is fast-acting, with users feeling the effects within two to three minutes. After a rapid onset, the euphoric effects typically last less than three hours. Due to the short duration of this “high,” many users find themselves in a rapid repetition of drug use to avoid withdrawal symptoms that resemble those of heroin. With its rapid onset and short duration, physical dependence and addiction to the krokodil drug can develop quickly.
Signs of Krokodil Addiction
Krokodil can result in addiction after just one use. The drug works by engaging with the opioid receptors in the brain. It tends to cause extensive tissue damage, often resulting in gangrene and damage to internal organs. For this reason, it is often referred to as a “flesh-eating drug.”
In addition, the drug’s acidity eats away at the user’s lower jaw. Doctors report that amputations among krokodil users are common. While doctors are sometimes able to perform skin grafts and treatment, they cannot always save the limbs or lives of users.
Many seek medical help too late. As a result, krokodil addicts wind up with bone infections, decayed facial bones and destroyed jaws. They also suffer skull and forehead ulcers, liver and kidney damage, and rotting lips, ears, and noses.
People who take krokodil intravenously often suffer a compromised immune system, increasing the chances of infection, blood-borne diseases, and hepatitis C. The risk of HIV infection through contaminated needles and death by overdose are also real dangers of krokodil drug use. Prolonged use can also lead to death, as it slowly poisons the body.
Over time, krokodil damages blood vessels and causes the skin to become green and scaly. This occurs due to necrosis. Necrosis is a medical condition in which blood flow is severely restricted, effectively killing the living tissue in certain areas of the body. Track marks are also a tell-tale sign of krokodil addiction.
Other signs of krokodil drug addiction include:
- Nodding, or opioid-related narcolepsy
- Drug-seeking behavior
- Mood irregularities
- Personality changes
- Uncommon drowsiness
Symptoms of Krokodil Withdrawal
The symptoms, intensity, and duration of krokodil withdrawal can vary, depending on the length of use, the volume of use, and other individual factors. Some of the more common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dilated pupils
- Abdominal cramps
Treatment for Krokodil Drug Addiction
As scary as krokodil addiction might be, there is hope. Thousands of Americans find the help they need to free themselves from krokodil drug addiction each year.
It is not recommended for someone to withdraw on krokodil solo. Dangerous withdrawal symptoms can occur and it carries a higher risk of relapse. However, with the proper support system and medical attention, one can effectively bid goodbye to krokodil addiction and give themselves the chance to begin anew.
Medical providers can treat krokodil addiction like other opiate addictions, by using prescription opiates, such as suboxone or methadone. However, the difficult withdrawal period makes opiate addiction challenging to treat and relapses common.
A detox program—followed by enrollment in a drug rehab program—may help prevent relapse. These programs focus on treating the underlying causes of addictive behaviors as well as developing life skills that help recovering addicts stay sober. Treatment methods include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), family therapy, education, and peer support. The National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends long-term treatment lasting at least 90 days.
Participation in a residential rehabilitation program may be most effective for people with long-term or severe krokodil addictions. Outpatient rehab can be effective for those with less complicated treatment needs and those who may not be able to participate in residential programs because of work, school or family obligations.
Begin Treatment for Krokodil Drug Addiction in California
Ocean Hills Recovery is a trusted source of comprehensive krokodil drug addiction and depression treatment in California. Our center serves adults in the Los Angeles area and throughout Orange County. If you’ve been struggling with addiction, our team can help.
Contact us today to learn more.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.