Over the past few months there has been a number of concerning reports that desomorphine, a.k.a. “krokodil,” a homemade alternative to heroin that is believed to have originated in Russia, may have made its way into the United States.
Krokodil is understandably horrifying to a lot of people. The drug gets its name from the Russian word for a crocodile, which gives a little warning of one of its effects — green, scaly skin at the site of injection. Gangrene and amputations are common, while fleshy tissue is eaten away by the corrosive chemicals. Many users are reported to die a couple of years after first taking the drug.
Reports of its spread in the U.S., however, are likely overblown. Krokodil is made using codeine and various ingredients including gasoline, paint thinner, iodine, hydrochloric acid, and red phosphorous. As codeine is relatively hard to obtain in the U.S., krokodil’s advantages over heroin are limited.
In other parts of the world, however, krokodil is a real worry.
Today Michael Bird, a journalist with the Black Sea has published two stories on the drug problem within former Soviet republic Georgia. One discusses the changing habits the country’s drug users, who were once able to buy heroin near the border with the troubled Russian region of Dagestan. Since 2003, however, the country has been in a war against drugs, and the easy supply of heroin has stopped, and the users have turned to homemade alternatives.
The other story focuses on one such alternative — krokodil.
“I do not want to be on Krokodil,” one user tells Bird. “Heroin is much better, but since Mikheil [Saakashvili] came to power [in 2008], we cannot find heroin. I used to take opium, but we cannot find this either — now the only choice is Krokodil.”
That paragraph sums up the sad appeal of Krokodil and reveals how this devastating drug is an unfortunate byproduct of a war on drugs.
Michael has kindly allowed Business Insider to publish the photographs below, but you should head over to the Black Sea to read his entire story.
The photographs, which show how easy the drug is to make, are below with Michael’s original captions: