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The Krokodil Epidemic

Reports that a life-threatening, flesh-eating drug is growing increasingly popular are alarming addiction professionals and medical personnel worldwide. What is “krokodil” and what are the effects of abusing it? Modifying the Delivery Modern pain relief practice often relies upon the fentanyl patch, which delivers an analgesic effect over a prolonged period of time. Drug abusers — desperate for a faster hit — have learned how to modify these pain patches for a more intense high by soaking them in household chemicals and then injecting the combination. The results include a ghastly infection called necrotizing fasciitis that eats away at the flesh and has life-changing consequences. A recent Australian news story indicates that physicians believe the impurities in the patch itself — rather than the fentanyl — are causing the infections. In one case, a patient contracted the flesh-eating disease after injecting the concoction into her groin, resulting in the use of a wheelchair and a colostomy bag. Milder cases result in green, scaly skin — hence the street name, “krokodil.” Where Krokodil Comes From Krokodil is sometimes referred to as “the most horrible drug in the world,” according to the Huffington Post. It hails from Russia and has found its way to the U.S., where users crave its heroin-like effects. Unfortunately, gangrene and other serious infections can result in amputation and death; users may not test positive for the substance because the body metabolizes it quickly, according to the Pittsburgh Poison Center. Worse, the Drug Enforcement Agency reports that those who abuse krokodil have a two-year life expectancy following first time use, making early addiction treatment essential in the fight against substance abuse. Although krokodil or krokodil heroin is new to the illicit drug world, the active chemical itself — desomorphine — was discovered in 1932. It’s about 10 times more potent than morphine and causes a faster, and shorter-acting, high. Krokodil grew in popularity in Russia after heroin became increasingly difficult to buy; in Russia, users concocted krokodil using codeine, which is available without a prescription, and chemicals such as gasoline. Now it seems that Australian users have learned how to create krokodil using a fentanyl pain patch, with potentially deadly consequences. (Photo via)

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