Let’s Hope Krokodil Is As Bad As It Gets

Posted: June 21, 2011 in Editorial

Hey, what can we say — people like drugs. Our willingness to exchange health and prosperity for a few fleeting moments enhanced by their euphoric effects truly says something about the collective ennui that has befallen our modern society. One could argue that humans have always used drugs as a coping mechanism, pointing to the tribesmen that munched on cacao leaves and Chinese scholars who puffed on opium pipes. Well, it may be a storied pastime, but I’d retort that narcotics have never been as extreme as they are today — and most shockingly of all, it appears they will continue to get worse.

How much worse? Well, it seems the Russians could tell you. For the past few years, that nation’s youth has been ravaged by a synthetic designer drug known as krokodil. An ugly variant of morphine, krokodil is derived from codeine and cut with such substances as paint thinner, gasoline, iodine and red phosphorous (the material used to ignite match heads). The drug is injected into the veins like heroin, which produces a deadening relaxation among users in the most literal sense — the average life span of a krokodil addict is two to three years. In 2010, it is estimated that up to one million Russians were actively using the drug — a 23-fold increase over the course of just one year. It would seem that methamphetamine has found an Eastern European counterpart.

The similarities to meth don’t end there. Krokodil — whose medical name is desomorphine — is prominent in isolated rural communities where work is sparse and residents are starved for healthy activity. Historically, these same people have turned to vodka or other narcotics to relieve their boredom. Now, according to Viktor Ivanov, head of Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service, krokodil “has practically pushed out traditional opiates.” In case you’re wondering how desomorphine got its nickname, the injection sites on a user’s body — anywhere from the toes to the forehead — become green and scaly after just a few doses. Virtually all addicts succumb to the drug; reported causes of death have included pneumonia, liver failure or burst blood vessels. If one survives the addiction, a medical miracle is proclaimed.

Russia’s solution to the problem has been highly scrutinized. Victims are ‘rehabilitated’ by extricating them from their homes and placing them in isolated, rustic cabins known as banyas, which essentially function as throwback detox wards. During their stay, these young men and women are inundated with evangelism. I’m no proponent of using the scriptures to fix the world’s problems, but if it stops people from killing themselves with drugs like krokodil — well, then bring on the prayer circle. Unfortunately, these measures don’t seem to be working. Relapse rates fall between 80 and 90 percent, and since the drug is made from everyday products, familiar places such as pharmacies and hardware stores become triggers for vulnerable recoverers. Oh, and plenty of krokodil recipes are available online — so anyone with a computer can conceivable gain access to the drug via the information highway.

The face of meth

I haven’t been exposed to much krokodil firsthand — that I know of — but I have seen the effects of meth up close, courtesy of my time with the US Forest Service. The jittery hands, vacant stare and erratic speech patterns have become a hallmark of my weekends spent working in the woods. It’s easy to write these people off as lost causes, since meth overtakes its user’s life in such a devilishly obsessive fashion. However, as usage of the drug has reached pandemic proportions in virtually every corner of our country, a dismissive, blind-eyed attitude toward the crisis may not be the most pragmatic approach. Since the ingredients are all readily accessible — and addiction is all but untreatable — the solution must be an extensive, preemptive educational outreach. As animalistic as most meth addicts become, none of them deserve the grisly fate that awaits them at the end of this short, monstrous cycle.

Furthermore, to classify meth as a “rural problem” is not only offensively elitist — it’s also highly inaccurate. Every major city in the United States has seen a pronounced increase in the use of this drug throughout the past decade — and thanks to krokodil (and God knows how many other forms), the issue has reached a global level. That kids constitute the lion’s share of users makes it all the more tragic — and preventable. So, how do we educate our children? Well, a dose of realism is a start. We warn the little ones about the dangers of drug use all the time — yet rarely do we concede that, yes, drugs are also quite fun. It’s a fair point to make to young people who might rightly wonder why so many people are giving up everything for something so terrible.

Moreover, we are quick to draw the line between acceptable drugs (alcohol, marijuana, et. al) and the other, ‘bad’ ones. Sure, as adults, we can differentiate between smoking some grass or taking a shot and mainlining black tar heroin into our arm, but it’s not feasible to expect our youth to exercise the same discretion. To them, a drug is a drug is a cool thing that you shouldn’t tell your parents about — and since kids are impressionable and eager to please their peers, it’s only a matter of time before they take the plunge from ‘good’ to ‘bad’ narcotics.

I hope it ends here, though I doubt it will. It’s foreseeable that, in 20 years, krokodil will seem as benign as marijuana and cocaine are today (which should tell us something right there). I worry for the children I plan to have, just as I’m worried for the kids that are already alive and exposed to this kind of filth. It’s no way to think about the world around me, but there it is.

  1. Laura says:

    Man, I hadn’ t even heard of krokodil. Scary stuff!

    And yeah, I can only imagine how tricky educating kids about drugs is. My guess is it probably just takes a lot of blunt honesty, because kids see right through any BS.

  2. luke says:

    LOL krokodile will never be accepted. it is to lethal. it literally melts your skin off

  3. I wouldn’t assume that it won’t be accepted… Some million Russians are turning to the drug in droves because the current economic situation prevents them from purchasing their real drug of choice – heroin. Evidence shows that although the “high” of Krokodil is shorter lived (around ninety minutes versus four or more hours for heroin), the intensity is incredibly high. Also known by the name desomorphine, it was actually “designed” in the US back in the 30’s. Even then, created in a clinical environment with pristine ingredients, it reared an ugly, addictive head that explains why you don’t hear about it much in the States. However, it is still used (in pill form) for its potent, pain-killing properties. Although addicts recognize the dangers of the drug, it doesn’t seem to stop them. It’s incredibly sad and the news of this has left me much more disturbed than any other drug abuse trend I’ve encountered in the past, including meth. It’s sad when the only way to “save” someone from Krokodil is to offer them clean cut heroin, all that they really wanted in the first place. This is why it was Russia that stood up in the international discussion about the legalization and decriminalization of some drugs. It was the decision to loosen the controls on something as “simple” as codeine that allowed this drug abuse pandemic to evolve in the first place.

    • Absolute garbage. There is a Russian Jewish MD who has become English and has both a pseudonym and a real name hence I cant recall it. Apparently he has written five books about the utter nonsense about narcotics promulgated here. He says that the whole hysteria about heroin withdrawal is utter bogus
      it is no worse than a cold. I partly agree but miss the full understanding of opiate receptors to understand the extremely vicious abomination of drug abuse. Which I dont understand as I have a horror vacui about injecting anything into the human body which is an assault. As a trained MD I hesitate invading the human body of another australopithecine moron in any way yet these idiots and degenerates dare to broach the protection of the skin against toxic foreign substaces. I am no Maoist but agree that the only Rx for opium addicts is swift executtion. Spares them the trouble of treatment centres and a horrific death. The only way to quit is to QUIT stop yammering whining and lying. QUIT!!!
      That’s how I quit coffein nicotine and lottery tickets ..J U S T Q U I T ! ! ! !
      Damn it.
      Nothing infuriates me more than the garbage about recreational drugs. You degenerate bastards murderers human garbage!!!!! You are not only evil but stupid ignorant and liars.
      All drugs including the idiotiocally supposedly harmless cannabinoids have natural endogenously synthetised receptors which are destroyed or made inoperative by exogenously acquired synthetic crap.

      If you read a good poem or listen to good music I mean real music not the shit listened to by zombies
      Mozart Beethowen Bach not Joplin Winehouse or Hendrix all of whom died of drug OD BTW as was foreordained you will produce plenty of endorphins and enkaphalins and endocannabinoids unless of course you have already fried your receptors by consuming synthetic crap.

      The Russkies poor souls could read Tolstoi and Pushkin or listen to Tschaikovki or Scriabin
      rather than shooting up with KROKODIL Pity.
      At least nobody will be left to invade Hungary again for the third time 1849 1944 1956.

      BTW the drugs synthetic opiates in this case desomorphine I was surprised to hear were synthetised in the glorious USA , whereas the majority like 99% were synthetised by German or Nazi chemists or MDs.
      Can you spell methamphetamine and thalidomide???

      Turrns out the degenerate and stealing and lying degenerate bastards the Germans didnt win the Berne World Cup of soccer in 1954 as they injected their players with Vitamin C to mask and extend the effect of metamphetamine which their chemists synthetised for the purpose of CHEATING the fucking bastards!!!!!!!!
      So it wasnt only the Chinese women and all the East German athletes for fifty years who owed their athletic supremacy to drugs !!!!!!******!@!!!~!~!~ but the West Germans the abominable SOBs.

      BTW when the Wehrmacht clashed with the Red Army it was one group of creeps and degenerates against another both doped up
      one with metamphetamine the other drunk on vodka.
      What were the Yanks who were bombing away high on Coca Cola?

      You never ever read this in any Hx of WWII.

      .All athletic performances all gold medals and all world records for the last hundred years must be eliminated destroyed erased expugned as nearly all are contaminated by the hideous odour of drug cheating.

      Face it we are a culture of absolute degenerates cheats liars and garbage..

      It is time to say enough already and exterminate the crap.

      As an MD my first duty is to educate my fellow ignorant stupid MDs who not out of vciousness but laziness stupidity and ignorance keep prescribing the horrific OXy and Perc and MS COntin and other crap.

      But guess what if I write like this the Hospital gets after me for daring to use their bureaucratic website for such illuminations. So I was thrilled to read about the Russsian Jewish English shrink who thinks more or less like I do. He gets published and I get suppressed and punished.

      Meanwhile in our small town and in North America the number of deaths due to narcotics Rxd by MDs out stripped that due to illegal crap like heroin methadone crystal meth and cocaine. Spiffy..

      So the problem is the very rare MDs who see this and speak out not the pharma and the govt reg agencies nor other MDs who still Rx the crap.

      • asdf says:

        You had me rage, then think it was all trolling and then back to rage. If it was a troll then well played good sir, if not I am at a loss as how to react to such outpourings of hate and idiocy.

      • pk says:

        ‘Heroin withdrawal is no worse than a cold is it? Ok then, get yourself a massive habit and try to come off it with your amazing will-power! Idiots like you make me sick: literally zero personal experience and you think you are qualified enough to come on here and spout your hateful garbage! Krokodil is the Russian heroin junkie’s only method of getting relief in a country without even basic treatment for addiction. As the heroin price has gone up recently due to government crackdowns the desperate are turning to this, the nastiest drug anyone could possibly imagine. MOTHER RUSSIA YOU ARE KILLING YOUR SONS AND DAUGHTERS! and you sire are an misinformed muppet of the worst type: one with a big mouth.

      • pk says:

        btw i love how u compare giving up lottery tickets to coming off heroin. You literally have no idea. You seem to imply you were struck off, and it’s not everyone else that is right, it’s you. You indeed have the personality of a Nazi scientist (or for that matter an American GP from Texas or somewhere). Shame you were born in the wrong era, and you missed your calling, because you are a true fascist.

  4. Hurin says:

    A couple thoughts.

    “An ugly variant of morphine, krokodil is derived from codeine and cut with such substances as paint thinner, gasoline, iodine and red phosphorous (the material used to ignite match heads).”

    Firstly, krokodil is not “cut” with those materials mentioned above; that term that would denote that they were added to the finished product as fillers. It appears that junkies synthesize the active ingredient, desomorphine, from the codeine present in pain medication, and that the ingredients listed above serve as solvents and reactants in the chemical transformations being utilized to accomplish that process. After the final reaction is complete the drug is then injected by in the user in crude form, along with side products from the reactions, solvents, and left over reagents.

    On a more general note, it seems to me that many illicit drugs have some of the problems of krokodil, in that they are not prepared (or purified) by chemists with adequate resources for quality control. It also seems that krokodil is an outlier with regard to toxicity. I think this is especially due to the fact that this drug is not well purified prior to injection, and that relatively toxic materials are used in its synthesis. Desomorphine was actually studied as a potential replacement for morphine in the 1930s. It was ultimately discarded for having a short period of activity, not because it appeared to be the flesh eating monstrosity that is currently destroying Russian addicts. If other drugs are as bad as this one in the future, they will likely be bad for similar reasons. The best drug in the world would still not be fit for consumption if it was cooked up with cleaning products in a non-scientist’s basement.

    Major caveat: Its true that many drugs have seriously deleterious effects on users even in pharmaceutical purity. I do not mean to minimize that fact in any way.

  5. fdsgh says:

    MAN, i feel bad for this “Dr.’s” patients if he really IS a doctor. He goes on about stupid people when he is actually the most ignorant person I think I’ve ever encountered, EVEN online. Opioid withdrawel is only as bad as a cold!? GOD I wish I could prescribe you some methadone for two months then stop cold turkey… I would LOVE to watch you beating your head against the floor after day four without sleep. I’d LOVE to watch you at the toilet not knowing whether to kneel or sit because whenever you puke you shit all over the wall behind you and whenever you shit you need to puke again.

    Some circumstantial evidence… Scenario: Seeing that your entire right arm is riddled with clots and the skin has literally melted off exposing the bone, and rendering the arm permanently unusable thus requiring amputation all because you inject a derivative of morphine only to then look to the other arm for clean veins. Now this person can suffer this OR be cured of this by going through a common cold. Is it because he’d rather lose life and limb to prove you wrong?

    How about when people are addicted to alcohol so badly that the lack of alcohol can cause death. Same thing with benzodiazepam? No those dead people are LIARS and degenerates!

    You’re a joke, a clown, the laughing stock of the world, you may have once been a doctor but you have since been fired and yet still bare the logo of “Dr.” because you still feel superior, but I’m being nice I don’t believe at all you’re a doctor. You are a moron to which there is no equal, so don’t talk down about others because you are the LAST to talk.

  6. KC Corcoran says:

    Krokodil won’t be a problem in America for one simple reason: Codeine isn’t available without a prescription like it is in Russia. Codeine is the base for this drug and the only reason Krokodil is available is that codeine is readily available.

    • Jennifer Gibbs says:

      While I hope that you are correct, I find some flaws in your argument. The ingredients for making bathtub crank aren’t by any means “readily” available. Those who “manufacture” it face constant regulatory battles. Getting your hands on the fertilizers for one type of cooking method require permits and all sorts of regulatory hurdles to jump. The other kind requires finding a whole bunch of people to go out and buy boxes of regulated cold medicine two boxes at a time, with the risk of getting busted when your name shows up too many times in a 30 day period. This is not easy. Actually, finding someone willing to sell you codeine pills on the black market would be EASIER!

      I think that the key thing here is the scary negative propaganda that would be associated with the body effects that happen. Otherwise, it’s highly likely. People are insane.

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