Today, the drug’s cheap, concentrated power makes it ideal for smuggling all over the world–including, recently, the United States. And those scaly patches are just the beginning. The effects of krokodil–fittingly, also known as the “zombie drug” or “cannibal heroin”–get far, far worse…
WHY IS IT CALLED KROKODIL?
If You’ve Ever Thought of Using This Drug….
Krokodil gets its name from the fact that the caustic drug causes an addict’s skin to become green, scaly and bumpy like a crocodile’s. If the drug misses a vein and is injected into flesh, that flesh will develop abscesses. It is common for addicts to develop gangrene and require amputations. The flesh on some body parts affected by krokodil injections will rot off completely, leaving bare bone.
Withdrawal is savage, much worse than heroin. Heroin can cause sickness and pain for up to ten days but withdrawal from krokodil can result in a month of unbearable pain. Extremely strong tranquilizers are used during withdrawal so the addict does not pass out from the pain.Doctors dealing with addicts say that this is the strongest level of addiction and the hardest to cure. If a person does manage to get clean from krokodil, they may be left with permanent damage like a speech impediment, vacant gaze and erratic movements.
The medical name for the drug is desomorphine. It is made at home by acquiring codeine, sold over the counter for headaches, and cooking it with paint thinner, gasoline, hydrochloric acid, iodine and the red phosphorous from matchbox strike pads. The resulting liquid is injected into a vein. The high from this drug lasts 90 minutes to two hours, and it takes about a half-hour to make the drug. So a krokodil addict does little other than get the ingredients and cook up the drug.
The average krokodil addict doesn’t live long. Some estimates place the user’s life expectancy at a little under one year, once they start using regularly. That means that, while all of the people featured in this post were alive when their pictures were taken, most if not all of them may be dead by the time you read it.
VICE went to Russia to learn more about the zombie drug — you can check out its chilling effects in the video below: