Has krokodil - the horrific street drug that rots the flesh of addicts – made the switch from Russia to the US?

'Exposed bones and skin hanging off bodies': Arizona fears epidemic caused by the homemade codeine and gasoline-based heroin substitute

Krokodil – the cheap heroin substitute that rots the flesh of addicts, usually killing them within two years – is believed to have made the switch to the US after a number of cases were reported in Arizona.

Officials in the state fear they may be seeing the beginning of an epidemic after two people in just one week attended hospitals suffering the devastating symptoms of the drug.

Krokodil – real name desomorphine - is an ultra-cheap heroin substitute that counts crushed codeine pills, gasoline, cooking oil, iodine, paint thinner and lighter fluid among its toxic ingredients.

The drug, which has become extremely popular in Russia in recent years, gets its name from the stench and reptilian texture it gives to an addict’s skin before it eventually eats it away completely, often leaving a user's bones exposed.

The effects of Russia's new deadline drug The effects of Russia's new deadline drug

As well as its rancid ingredient list and devastating effects, krokodil is also highly addictive and short-lasting – meaning many addicts exist in a never-ending cycle of drug consumption and drug preparation.

The Arizona cases came to light after Dr Frank LoVecchio – the co-medical director at Banner Poison Control Center – told the Phoenix-based news service KPHO  that he had dealt with two cases over the last seven days.

Dr LoVecchio said: “As far as I know, these are the first cases in the United States that are reported. So we're extremely frightened.

He added: “They extract [the drug] and even though they believe that most of the oil and gasoline is gone, there is still remnants of it. You can imagine just injecting a little bit of it into your veins can cause a lot of damage… it eats you from the inside out”.

A heroin user prepares the drug in Zhukovsky, near Moscow A heroin user prepares the drug in Zhukovsky, near Moscow

Although the two reported cases are believed to have been related, there are fears that the fact it has already spread as far as Arizona may suggest the US is likely see a large number of addicts over the coming years.

“Where there is smoke there is fire, and we're afraid there are going to be more and more cases,” Dr LoVecchio added.

The drug is called Krokodil because it leaves users with scaly skin like a crocodile The drug is called Krokodil because it leaves users with scaly skin like a crocodile

Although it has the same mental effects as heroin, krokodil’s incredibly cheap ingredients – all of which can be purchased legally in corner shops and supermarkets in Russia – cause dramatic and devastating consequences in a user’s body.

Many addicts suffer brain damage and speech impediments from the drug, but it is from the fact it often causes blood vessels to burst - leaving strong-smelling gangrenous wounds to fester on the body - that krokodil acquired its sinister name and reputation.

The Krokodil eats the internal human organs The Krokodil eats the internal human organs

The average krokodil user has a life expectancy of just two to three years after they start taking the drug, and in that time they can expect their skin to turn green, scaly and fall-off as a kind of pre-death decomposition sets in.

Dr Allan Harris believes he has seen one case of Krokodil abuse in the UK before. Read his warning here.

In 2011 The Independent visited Russia to find out more about the krokodil epidemic sweeping the country. Read that article by clicking here.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
food + drink
Voices
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959
voicesWard committed no crime, and the truth is still being covered up, writes Geoffrey Robertson QC
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
News
people

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
Sport
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas