A terrifying new drug known as krokodil has made its way to America. Also known as desomorphine or the crocodile drug, krokodil is a potent synthetic opioid.
A Deeper Look at Krokodil Drug Effects
Addicts who have used krokodil will quickly find out where the name comes from. Once the drug is injected into the body, the injection area becomes scaly. The color of the skin also turns green and black. It will have the same look and texture as crocodile leather. This is because the skin is rotting. The skin will then start to crust over and peel off.
The horrible effects of this drug are why it’s also known as the gator drug and the flesh-eating heroin.
A Swiss multinational healthcare company called Roche first designed the drug. It was powerful and fast acting, and used as a sedative and as an analgesic.
The drug was first popularized in Russia, but has, unfortunately, reared its ugly head in America. There have been several reports of krokodil use in Arizona and Utah.
This particular narcotic is becoming very popular among heroin addicts. It gives a stronger high, and is cheaper. In fact, krokodil is usually homemade.
Krokodil Drug Ingredients
Krokodil can be easily made from ingredients found at home. The entire process takes less than 45 minutes, and is similar to making methamphetamine from pseudoephedrine. The final product is a street drug that is three times cheaper than heroin. Krokodil contains drug ingredients like:
- Hydrochloric acid
- Paint thinner
- Red phosphorous from matchstick heads
The ability to make such a potent drug from codeine and iodine has led to its popularity. This is the primary reason why the crocodile drug was a hit in Russia. There, codeine can be purchased over-the-counter.
Unfortunately, dangerous ingredients like gasoline and paint thinner are not removed. As a result, users are literally injecting paint thinner and gasoline into their body. This is what makes the drug so dangerous.
The Dangers of Krokodil
Krokodil is as dangerous as it comes. It is 8 to 10 times more potent than morphine.
Upon injecting crocodil, the drug will eat you from the inside out. It will cause flesh to rot, and even expose bone and muscle. Krokodil users often die within two years of using the drug. The aftermath and consequences are simply too much for the body to bear.
The primary reason for the toxicity of krokodil lies in its manufacturing process. The process does not put much emphasis on removing leftover by-products. This includes ingredients like iodine, phosphorous, gasoline and paint thinner.
The manufacturing process of krokodil also uses strong acids and bases. Hydrochloric acid is one of them. Drug dealers and users that make this drug do not measure the final pH of the solution.
Studies that have measures crocodil residue in used syringes have found that the drug has a pH of less than 3. This means that it’s just as acidic as lemon juice, and will cause irreversible damage to the body.
These residues also contained binding aids and insoluble fillers like tropicamide. The combination of these pharmaceuticals with other deadly ingredients may also be responsible for its toxicity.
How Krokodil Affects the Brain and Body
Since crocodil is an opioid, it works by relaxing the user’s senses and by slowing down cardiac and respiratory activity. If a user’s heart rate and breathing slows down too much, it won’t be capable of sustaining life. As a result, it’s easy for users to overdose on the croc drug.
Krokodil also blocks an important enzyme in the body known as cholinesterase. This enzyme is responsible for blocking acetylcholine. Since cholinesterase activity is blocked, acetylcholine levels rise. This hyper-stimulates nerve cells, and causes organs to malfunction.
Effects of Using the Crocodile Drug
The dangers of krokodil begin once it is injected. Immediate, but lasting effects of using the drug include:
- Bone infections
- Blood clots
- Blood poisoning
- Erratic movements
- Kidney damage
- Liver damage
- Rotting gums
- Severe vein damage
- Speech impairment
- Tooth loss
Long-term use of the drug can lead to the need for limb amputations and skin grafts. The soft tissue surrounding the injection area will usually rot and die. This is especially true if users miss a vein. If krokodil is injected into soft tissue, it will cause an abscess that kills the surrounding flesh.
Crocodile drug users will often die within a few years. This is due to loss of skin from using the drug. It can also be due to blockages in the veins and from severe infections. The drug eats users from the inside out.
If left untreated, the rotting flesh and muscles will continue to spread throughout the entire body. These effects are irreversible and permanent. This is what makes krokodil so dangerous of a drug.
Another important note is that HIV spread is also common among krokodil users. This is mainly due to the fact that addicts often share needles.
Addictive Potential of Krokodil
Since krokodil is 10 times as strong as codeine, it’s safe to say that it has a high addictive potential. The high usually lasts anywhere from 1.5 to 2 hours. Users get the same high as if they were using heroin, but without the nausea. The length of time that users feel high for is quite long in comparison to other drugs.
Due to the combination of impure ingredients, users quickly develop tolerance and dependence. Its quick-acting effects lead to frequent use. The more frequent the use, the easier it is for users to become addicted.
Many of the ingredients in krokodil react with one another. They cause the drug to have a much higher addictive potential. Many users get hooked on the drug after the first use.
Symptoms and Signs of Krokodil Use
It’s difficult to hide krokodil drug use. The signs are quite obvious. In all cases, users will have scaly, green skin. The soft tissue surrounding the injection sites will often be rotting. These areas can get further infected if not treated.
The telltale sign of krokodil use can be seen on the skin and from how the person smells. Hospital staffs and medical professionals all claim that croc drug users smell horrible. It’s difficult to get pass the smell of rotting skin.
Still, there are some other signs and symptoms to look out for. Common signs of crocodil use include:
- An empty gaze
- Constant stomach cramps
- Intense cravings
- Muscle pain
- Profuse sweating
- Skin ulcers
Krokodil users are said to have an empty gaze. This gaze sticks with them even if they are sober. It’s like a permanent reminder of their drug use.
Krokodil is basically a stronger version of heroin. As a result, it’s reasonable to expect that addicts will develop similar, but strong co-occurring disorders.
Many krokodil addicts will struggle with one of four major co-occurring disorders. They include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia.
These disorders play off of one another. They both affect hormone and brain chemistry levels. Often, dopamine and serotonin levels will drop causing feelings of dread and unhappiness.
Addicts looking to get sober should enroll in a recovery program that treat co-occurring disorders. This improves their chances of successfully getting sober.
Statistics Involved with Co-Occurring Disorders
If you’re wondering how entwined mental disorders and substance abuse are take a look at these statistics:
- 30 to 50% of adolescents with ADHD will try and use illicit drugs
- 32 to 54% of people struggling with major depression also abuse illicit drugs
- 40 to 44% of veterans with PTSD will struggle with lifetime drug use
- 22 to 43% of regular citizens with PTSD will use illicit drugs
- Up to 50% of schizophrenics use illicit drugs or alcohol
Those struggling with one of the four major co-occurring disorders are more likely to try and use illicit drugs. They are much more vulnerable and susceptible.
Withdrawing from Krokodil
Withdrawals for the croc drug are much worse than withdrawals for heroin. Addicts who have used desomorphine for less than three weeks will experience withdrawal symptoms as early as four hours after the last dose. This is why many addicts start cooking up the next batch minutes after an injection.
It’s difficult to get sober when using krokodil. While most withdrawal symptoms will disappear after one week for heroin, withdrawal symptoms can last over a month for the crocodile drug.
Common Withdrawal Symptoms
Since krokodil is an opioid, withdrawal symptoms are similar to heroin withdrawal symptoms. Users will experience:
- Chills and goose bumps
- Intense flu-like symptoms
- Muscle pain and twitching
- Stomach cramps
These symptoms are much stronger when withdrawing from krokodil. In fact, the pain is said to be so intense that addicts often pass out.
Stages of Krokodil Withdrawals
Withdrawal symptoms appear in three different stages. There’s the early stage, the peak stage and the long-term stage. Let’s take a deeper look into each of the three stages:
- Early stage: Addicts experience intense flu-like symptoms like chills, headaches, goose bumps and fevers. This stage can come and go within a few hours.
- Peak stage: Withdrawal symptoms worsen, and include symptoms like major headaches, stomach cramps, vomiting and intense cravings. The worse thing about krokodil use is that the peak stage can last for several weeks.
- Long-term stage: Long-term withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, insomnia and muscle aches. These symptoms can last anywhere from months to years.
Due to the length of each stage, krokodil addicts need a strong support system to keep them from relapsing. Support from friends and family is vital in keeping them on track.
The pain of withdrawals is so severe that high doses of pain medication are needed. Many doctors will administer powerful tranquilizers to keep users calm. Most of these medications will need to be administered intravenously. Professional medical staff will need to monitor each patient’s vitals around-the-clock.
Because of how painful the withdrawals are, professional help is needed. Addicts won’t succeed if they attempt to get sober on their own. It’s important to note that withdrawing at home and without professional help can be deadly.
Users will need medications to treat the damages caused by using the drug. This includes strong antibiotics to fight off existing infections. The crocodile drug causes extensive damage to the body. Since many different drugs may be in the krokodil concoction, a urinalysis is needed to determine which drugs are consumed.
Medical detox is a crucial part of recovery. To manage withdrawal symptoms, many recovery centers recommend trying opioid replacement therapy (ORT).
This might include using opioid antagonists, which are medications that work against opioids. A popular antagonist that is highly recommended is Naloxone. This drug helps control an addict’s heart rate and breathing rate.
Those who successfully become sober will still be left with permanent bodily damage. Former addicts may have limbs amputated or may struggle with speech and motor impairments. It’s not unusual for addicts to have a permanently empty gaze.
Krokodil vs. Heroin
Although a powerful and addictive drug, the likelihood of widespread krokodil addiction in the United States is not high. Regions of the world most affected by this crocodile drug often face extreme poverty. To top it off, drug users in these regions have limited access to traditional opiates, like heroin.
Russia, for instance, faces widespread krokodil addiction. Its harsh drug laws have turned many addicts away from drugs that carry stiffer penalties, like heroin. Unfortunately, this has caused more users to turn to newer street drugs like krokodil.
Heroin continues to hold its place as the champion when it comes to American street opioids. This is because heroin potency is at an all time high. This is especially true now that many dealers choose to add fentanyl into their products. Also, the easy accessibility and low price of heroin makes it the obvious choice for opioid users.
Due to the easy accessibility of heroin, most users will choose it over the gator drug. Krokodil users can’t mask the obvious skin lacerations that appear after injection.
Due to these reasons, the threat of a krokodil epidemic in North America is not yet credible.
Seek Help to Save Yourself
If you’re addicted to krokodil, you need help. Even short-term use of this drug will lead to damaging effects on the body, if not deadly.
The withdrawal symptoms of the crocodile drug can be a lot to bear. To successfully recover, professional medical detox is needed. It will lessen the intensity and severity of the withdrawal symptoms, and will also help reset the brain.
Rehab gives you an opportunity to save yourself. The counselling and therapies offered with the treatment will also help mend and repair relationships.