Krokodil heroin is the street name for desomorphine, a designer drug that resembles an opiate but is ten times more powerful than morphine.
Desomorphine has been around for several decades but has only recently seen a surge in popularity as a substitute for heroin, despite its crippling toxicity and sometimes deadly effects.
What Is Krokodil Heroin?
Krokodil heroin is a derivative of morphine, so it bears a resemblance to opiate-based drugs like heroin or synthetic opioids, while not actually being an opiate.
Unlike the desomorphine that was initially synthesized in a lab decades ago, krokodil heroin is usually made at home from a variety of chemicals to create an approximation of the drug.
Chemical Structure Of Krokodil Heroin
The toxicology of krokodil heroin is theoretically understood. The primary component should be desomorphine, a drug without any medical use in the United States.
However, the reality can vary due to the fact that the drug is often homemade using readily available chemicals from a variety of sources with unknown contaminants.
As a result, the exact chemical nature of any given batch of the drug is hard to determine.
Method Of Manufacture
Krokodil heroin continues to circulate, despite the elevated risks, because the drug can be made at home at a fairly low price compared to other types of heroin.
The basic ingredient of the drug is codeine, an opioid that can be found in over-the-counter (OTC) medications, like Tylenol. The tablets are boiled down with a chemical diluting agent.
This diluting agent can vary depending on what the manufacturer has close at hand.
Solvents used to dilute codeine may include:
- red phosphorous
- hydrochloric acid
- paint thinner
The byproducts of these chemicals are highly toxic, making the resulting concoction detrimental to a person’s health.
Effects Of Krokodil Heroin
The use of krokodil heroin causes a range of effects that may require emergency healthcare to prevent fatality.
The short-term effects of krokodil heroin don’t last very long. The abbreviated high encourages repeated use through multiple injections, which increases the risk of addiction and overdose.
The effects of krokodil heroin on your brain and body are similar to those of heroin. Both drugs are central nervous system depressants, but desomorphine is much more powerful.
Krokodil heroin is highly addictive for its analgesic and euphoric effects but does not seem to lead to tolerance the way heroin does.
Evidence suggests that the average lifespan of people who use krokodil heroin is two years past their first use.
Over the course of that time, the drug leads to tissue damage, damaged blood vessels, and thrombophlebitis, causing the skin to develop abscesses and a green, scaly appearance.
Additionally, the skin can develop large, necrotic ulcerations that can cause gangrene, requiring amputation and, in some cases, leading to death.
Instances of bone infection that can lead to osteomyelitis (bone swelling) and osteonecrosis (death of bone cells) away from injection sites have also been reported.
Methods Of Abuse
Krokodil heroin does not appear to have multiple forms of abuse similar to other drugs like heroin or methamphetamine.
Krokodil heroin is almost always injected. The soft tissue infections and conditions mentioned above develop around the injection sites.
Why Do People Abuse Krokodil Heroin?
You may reasonably wonder why people turn to krokodil heroin drug use if it is so toxic. One reason is the availability of heroin.
When heroin is hard to come by, a person who is addicted to the drug may turn to krokodil heroin as an easily accessible alternative that they can make in their own home.
Cost Of Krokodil Heroin
The cost of krokodil heroin relative to pure heroin is another reason people may abuse the drug. Krokodil heroin is far cheaper.
Examples include a case reported to California poison control in 2014.
According to the case report, a woman went to the emergency room for skin sores related to the krokodil heroin she began using when she lost her job and couldn’t afford pure heroin.
This case and many others have fueled the ongoing international debate over whether harm prevention and treatment should be the primary focus of drug policies rather than incarceration.
The Origins Of Krokodil Heroin
The first synthesis of desomorphine occurred in the United States in 1936.
While desomorphine is used medicinally in countries like Switzerland in the form of Permonid, the drug is a Schedule I controlled substance in the U.S. with no legal or medicinal use.
Desomorphine first resurfaced as a street drug in Russia in the early 2000s when the decreased supply of real heroin was driving costs up.
Krokodil heroin is a cheap alternative that quickly spread from Russia, into Ukraine, and onto the international stage. In the United States, Arizona and Georgia are among the most affected.
Why Is It Called Krokodil Heroin Or The Zombie Drug?
The green scaly appearance of the skin around injection sights is indicative of the name, krokodil or crocodile.
It is also called the zombie drug or flesh-eating drug because of the way ulcerous skin resembles that of zombies as they are popularly portrayed in movies.
What Are The Signs Of Krokodil Addiction?
The signs of krokodil addiction coincide with signs of heroin addiction and include sleepiness, drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, and a decline in performance at work or school.
For krokodil heroin, in particular, signs may include withdrawing multiple times a day to inject the drug and skin sores that become ulcerous and painful.
Can You Overdose From Krokodil Heroin?
Yes, you can overdose on the drug, but the majority of medical literature available about the drug indicates a larger concern with the damage that the drug does to your body.
Find Treatment For Krokodil Heroin Addiction
If you are battling an addiction to krokodil heroin, get help now. Treatment centers near you can help you detox from substance abuse and start building a life of sobriety.
Call our helpline today to discover how we can guide you to the recovery program that you need.Article Sources
- British Dental Journal
- California Poison Control System
- Drug Enforcement Administration
- Emergency Medicine News
- JAAD Case Reports
- Journal of Internet Medical Research
- The American Journal of Medicine