What is Krokodil? Flesh-eating drug surfaces in Arizona

This Russian news report showed a Krokodil user whose flesh had rotted.  Credit: YouTube
This Russian news report showed a Krokodil user whose flesh had rotted.
Credit: YouTube

Krokodil, a popular drug in Russia, surfaced in Arizona this past week; the two instances are the first reported cases of the drug being used in the U.S.

Krokodil is a heroin substitute and is much cheaper than the opium-based drug. It is a codeine-based injectable drug that is extremely dangerous and attacks body tissue. Yuri Fedotov, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, told Reuters that the drug can kill people in as little time as a few weeks to two months.

Dr. Frank LoVecchio, co-medical director at Banner’s Poison Control Center, told KLTV in Phoenix that he is very concerned there are more users. He explained that the drug is made by mixing codeine with substances like gasoline, oil or alcohol and then filtering and boiling the mixture before injecting it; LoVecchio said filtering is not enough to remove all traces of the fuel. Thus, people end up injecting themselves with fuel, resulting in flesh that rots from the inside out.

Some people get crocodile skin-like patches on their bodies, which is how the moniker “Krokodil” originated. He told KLTV, “When [drug users] do it repeatedly, the skin sloughs. It causes hardening of their skin. It will cause necrosis.”

Krokodil is a major problem in Russia, where heroin users may number as many as 2 million, according to the Independent. As of 2011, the cost of a dose of heroin ran up to more than $30, whereas a bottle of codeine was $3 and could be cooked into Krokodil, reported the Independent. Krokodil users told the Independent that if they missed a vein while injecting the drug, an abscess in the flesh would follow.


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