Use of Flesh-Rotting 'Zombie' or Krokodil Drug Appears to be Spreading

Is the cheap, accessible heroin substitute with devastating health tolls taking off in the states?

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/ Burlingham

Since its apparent debut in the U.S, reports of the flesh-eating drug desomorphine, more commonly known as krokodil, or the “zombie drug” have slowly begun to show up all over the country. Krokodil first made its public appearance in Russia in 2002 due to the country’s lack of drug treatment facilities and increase in opiate use. People living at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder have turned to this drug for a heroin-like high because it’s 10 to 20 times cheaper than the real stuff.

The drug is made of codeine, gasoline, paint thinner, oil, and alcohol, and is injected into the skin. When injected, the drug gives users an intense and euphoric high, but simultaneously eats away at the skin from the inside out and hardens it until it turns green and falls off, sometimes even leaving muscles and bones exposed.

While the DEA has yet to confirm any American cases of desomorphine abuse, krokodil seems to have arrived in the U.S. this September when two people in Arizona were admitted to the hospital with the drug’s gruesome trademark wounds. Ever since, use of the flesh-eating drug appears to be spreading. Krokodil-like wounds and use has been reported in the following states: 

Utah: Reports of possible krokodil abuse cropped up in Utah shortly following the reports in Arizona.

Illinois: More recently an ABC affiliate in Chicago reported on the Neitzel sisters, who were among five people hospitalized with black spots and blisters all over their bodies. The five discovered that they had all been taking krokodil accidentally, instead of heroin which they thought they were purchasing, and came forward to the media as a warning to others.

New York: According to the Verge, there have been two reported krokodil sightings in New York City at the high-end night clubs Le Bain and the Westway, indicating that the drug may be working its way through the nightlife scene.

Oklahoma (maybe): The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics this week began investigating the death of 33-year-old Justin McGree of Duncan, Oklahoma. McGree’s friends said he was a krokodil user. “The doctors say it ate him from the inside out. It wasn’t until the next day that they told us that is was krokodil meth,” one friend told the Oklahoma news outlet KOKO-TV. However, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics told CNN an autopsy had ruled out krokodil as a cause of death.

Rula Al-Nasrawi is a freelance writer living in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @rulaoftheworld.

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