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Flesh Eating Form Of Heroin?

Published: January 07, 2016
Dear TeenHealthFX,

My teacher told us that there is a flesh eating form of heroin. None of my friends have heard this. Is it true?

Signed: Flesh Eating Form Of Heroin?

Dear Flesh Eating Form Of Heroin?,

TeenHealthFX can understand why you might doubt your teacher, because it seems to outrageous to be true. The sad reality is that, what your teacher told you is mostly true. The drug is not a form of heroin, it is an extremely powerful morphine derivative known as Desomorphine. It is a synthetic form of morphine developed in the 1930s in the United States. Desomorphine produces an opiate-like action with a fast onset and brief action. As a morphine derivative, it is about ten times more potent than morphine. There is no accepted medical use for desomorphine in the U.S. and it has been controlled in the U.S. since 1936. 

Desomorphine started gaining notoriety around 2002 in Russia. It became known to users by its street names “Krokodil.” Its name reflects the black or green scaly skin and tough like the skin of a crocodile. At the time the combination of the Russian government cracking down on heroin use, along with shortages and the price increase in heroin, led users to look for a substitute that was cheaper and easy to get. Krokodil emerged as a homemade form of Desomorphine. Homegrown versions of the drug are made with codeine, which was readily available in over the counter cough medications. The codeine needs to be “cooked,” in a similar way as methamphetamine (Meth). To produce Krokodil, the codeine is mixed with ingredients including gasoline, paint thinner, hydrochloric acid, iodine and red phosphorous (scraped from the striking pads on matchboxes.) The resulting liquid is injected into a vein. It takes about a half-hour to make the Krokodil and the high lasts from 60 minutes to 90 minutes. Since it is a relatively short “high,” users find themselves frequently using the drug to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

The process of “cooking” Krokodil produces large amounts of toxic substances, which are rarely removed from the end product. Injecting the impurities of the mix (mostly iodine and phosphorus) can cause serious damage of the skin, blood vessels, bone and muscles, that can lead to limb amputation in long-term users. In addition porous bone tissue, especially in the lower jaw, often starts to dissolve as a result of the drug's acidity. If the user misses the vein when injecting, an abscess can form, causing death of the flesh surrounding the entry-point. The prolonged use of the drug is terminal. Officials in Moscow have estimated the typical lifespan of a Krokodil addict is to be about two years

Russia outlawed the sale of over the counter codeine in 2012. It has helped to reduce the use of Krokodil, but the black market for codeine has prevented its demise. 

Krokodil has not been a major factor in the United States according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). There have been reported cases in Illinois and Arizona but nothing on a large scale. Some of the media has rationalized that since heroin is not hard to find in the United States, that drug users here have no reason to resort to such desperate measures. The problem with this thinking is it implies that drug use has a rational and logic to it. It also does not take into account all the unregulated synthetic drugs that are used as substitute ingredients for Ecstasy and synthetic marijuana. Pure MDMA is not as readily available or cheap. Krokodil could be easily used as a substitute and sold as Ecstasy/Molly or sprayed on a leafy substance and sold as marijuana.


Signed: TeenHealthFX