While researching new methods to kill off characters in my short stories and novels, I came across a most intriguing drug abuse phenomenon and I’d like to share it with you.
The Crocodile drug—which is alternately spelled Krocodile, Krocodil and Krokodil Tears—is actually desomorphine, an opiate made easily from codeine, iodine and red phosphorus. Krokodil (as it’s most often termed) is said to be about ten times more potent than morphine, the common standard by which other opiates are compared to regarding potency.
The advantages of desomorphine as a street drug are that it has a fast onset of action (an instantaneous high, like heroin), the “rush” lasts longer than heroin (about 90 minutes compared to about 20 minutes), it has less nausea and respiratory side effects than morphine or heroin, and it costs at least three times less than heroin. A small syringe cocktail of Krokodil is often all that is needed to attract and intrigue the hardcore drug user.
The main disadvantages are that long-term use of Krokodil results in the rotting of human flesh and the skin around the injection site turns greenish, scaly, tough and bumpy—appearing to be much like crocodile skin.
Developed in Russia around 2002, Krokodil became all the rage in Russian street drug deals by 2010 as a heroin substitute. It got its name because the reptile crocodile in Russian is Krokodil. Thousands of deaths in Russia have been attributed to this dangerous street drug.
As distribution spread to the Western parts of Europe, the Krokodil name has perpetuated—at least until it hit American soil. On the streets of the United States, the drug is known as “the flesh-eating crocodile drug” and alternately as “the poor man’s meth”. The first US street deaths from desomorphine were reported in the fall of 2013 in Oklahoma with other reports coming from Arizona, Utah and Illinois.
Aside from the lethal effects of a drug overdose from Krokodil, one of the main reasons this drug is so deadly is that desomorphine is made from codeine brewed in backroom kitchens using lighter fluid, gasoline, paint thinner, alcohol and hydrochloric acid as reactants to chemically transform codeine into desomorphine.
Preparation of the drug often leaves impurities behind and traces of the oil, gas and acid remain in the finished drug product. When improperly injected into skin and veins, these impurities cause blood vessels to burst and gangrene to form on skin, making skin tissue appear green, scaly and tough like the skin of crocodiles.
Treatments include cleansing of the infected tissue and administering antibiotics; but skin and muscle grafts, and sometimes amputations, are often required.
Statistics show that usually within one or two years of avid Krokodil use, the user will die of a massive infection, with flesh literally falling off bone and leaving gaping wounds.
Rehab for the Krokodil user is usually three times as long, much more complex and the pain is more severe as compared to rehab for the heroin user.
In all, Krokodil addiction is a rather unpleasant experience, difficult to successfully rehab, and often results in an extremely painful death.
One might say that this drug makes a perfect ending for the particularly nasty villain in your story.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!