A new drug, that appears to have started in Russia, is causing quite a bit of alarm. This new drug, known by the names Crocodile or Krokodil, is an inexpensive substitute for heroin. Crocodile is made from desomorphine, a synthetic opiate that is a derivative of morphine. In the public domain, Crocodile and desomorphine are synonymous, but in reality, Crocodile refers to a home-made and generally dirty form of desomorphine. This is in contrast to the desomorphine that was developed as an opiate medication in the early 1930’s. According to Wikipedia.org, desomorphine is “8-10 times more potent than morphine”.
Russia has historically has a high incidence of heroin use and addiction. In an effort to reduce heroin use and associated crime and health problems, Russia has taken steps to reduce the amount of heroin available and therefore increase its street value. This hass led heroin to become too expensive or difficult to find for many addicts and opened the door for a cheaper, more accessible alternative.
Compared to heroin, Crocodile is inexpensive to manufacture and therefore, cheap to buy on the streets. This makes crocodile attractive to those looking for an inexpensive “high”. As with other home-made drugs, there are many variations in the manufacture of Crocodile. However, most batches start with codeine-based medication, which is sold over the counter in Russia, combined with a variety of readily available ingredients that may include gasoline, iodine, hydrochloric acid, paint thinner, and red phosphorous, among others. In most cased, there is no purification of the end product and the user is injecting a substances full of toxins. The process for making Crocodile from codeine tablets is similar to the process of making methamphetamine from pseudoephedrine.
The “high” from Crocodile lasts about ninety minutes. This is notably shorter than the “high” one gets from heroin. Given that Crocodile takes approximately an hour to make, many users are spending all of their waking hours either making or using this drug. And given the discomfort of withdrawal from Crocodile, those addicted to it need to wake up frequently at night to take more of it.
Crocodile received its name due to the effect it has on the skin of its users. Crocodile is generally injected and, as noted above, the drug is loaded with toxic chemicals. Crocodile causes one’s skin to take on a greenish hue and become scaly. This occurs due to the bursting of blood vessels near the injection site and the resultant death of tissue near the site of the injection. If a vein is missed, the chemical is then injected directly into the muscle. The poisonous nature of this drug causes the muscle and surrounding tissue to develop abscesses and literally rot while on the body.
Although this drug began in Russia, it is beginning to make its way around the world. There have been reports that it is being used in the United States, although data about its availability is limited.
Withdrawal from Crocodile is reported to be quite difficult. In comparison to heroin, the physical pain associated with withdrawal from Crocodile are said to be intense for up to a month and sometimes even longer. It has been reported that the physical sensation of pain is so intense during detox from Crocodile that some users lose consciousness. Due to the difficult detox, as well as lack of treatment services in the poorest areas of Russia where this drug is flourishing, the average life expectancy of a person addicted to Crocodile is 2-3 years.