Emerging Krokodil Drug Trend and Cases. Signs and Symptoms of Krokodil Drug Use and Treatment

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What Is Krokodil Drug?

Krokodil drug is a semi-synthetic substance used as a cheap alternative to heroin. With its active ingredient desomorphine, it is a highly addictive and destructive drug mainly used in Russia and Eastern Europe. Desomorphine is made by combining codeine tablets with various toxic chemicals including lighter fluid and industrial cleaners. Desomorphine has a similar effect to heroin in the brain and is responsible for its psychoactive characteristics.

Krokodil drug gets its name from the scaly, gray-green dead skin that forms at the site of injection, hence the name “crocodile.” It’s more addictive than heroin, cheaper than prescription painkillers, and gets you 10 times as high as morphine — but for half as long. This flesh-eating narcotic has made its landing in the United States.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) [1], the starting materials for desomorphine are combinations of the following; codeine tablets, alkali solutions, organic solvent, acidified water, iodine, and red phosphorus. All of which are easily available in retail outlets, such as supermarkets, drugstores, etc. The resulting product is a light brown liquid that is called krokodil.

Desomorphine, the active ingredient of Krokodil is a Schedule I substance.  Substances in the DEA Schedule I have no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse. This is according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) [2]

Signs and Symptoms of Krokodil Drug Use

Today, with the advent of the internet, the processing and marketing of designer drugs have become very sophisticated.  People who inject krokodil present a great variety of serious signs and symptoms, including:

  • Thrombophlebitis: Inflammation of the veins
  • Ulcerations: The formation of a break on the skin or on the surface of an organ
  • Skin Infections
  • Soft Tissue Infections
  • Gangrene and Necrosis: Death of body tissue due to a lack of blood flow or serious bacterial infection

Limb amputation has been necessary to save a user’s life, quickly evolving to limb amputation and death.

Krokodil drug is a semi-synthetic substance used as a cheap alternative to heroin.
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Emerging Krokodil Drug Trend

This emerging trend of synthetic drugs is the new frontier for drug enforcement and drug rehab. It will be a challenge if it will be available on the streets as a low-cost alternative to heroin. Moreover, recipes spread around easily on the internet through forums, where drug users share knowledge. The emergence of the krokodil drug is horrifying. It is a dirty street drug with extreme effects. Its trend is somewhat similar to the emergence of bath salts, a class of synthetic designer drugs that use new compounds to mimic the effects of amphetamines. The drugs are extremely addictive, hard on users’ bodies, and can bring on psychosis.

Designer drugs are usually produced by creating analogs to existing drugs in order to avoid the existing regulations and controls. Designer drug ingredients such as codeine tablets, the main ingredient for krokodil, often come from China, which means they’re cheap. According to the US State Department [3], China has between 160,000 and 400,000 chemical companies operating legally, illegally, or somewhere in between — an expansive estimate reflecting both the industry’s size and the lack of the information available. Some of these facilities manufacture tons of chemicals every week or more than a million pills per day.

Krokodil Drug
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In 2016, the industry made up 3 percent of China’s national economy, with over $100 billion in profits annually. Most of these companies are members of the vast pharmaceutical underclass, pumping out huge quantities of inexpensive generic drugs and pharmaceutical ingredients. It’s a low-cost, low-profit business, but the barriers to entry are minimal, and the market is enormous. This is according to the New York Times Magazine [4]. But chemicals banned in the United States often remain legal in China, where controlling chemicals is slow and troublesome.

Cases of Krokodil Drug Use

The first U.S. cases came to light in Utah and Arizona in late September of 2013. Within the first two weeks of October, five more cases were discovered in Illinois. In addition, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics is investigating the deaths of two men in late 2012 as being caused by krokodil. Some of the individuals have said they learned how to manufacture the drug themselves, but in most of the cases, the users thought they had purchased heroin. This is according to the Union County Public Schools (UCPS) [5].

It seems to have first appeared in Siberia and the Russian Far East around 2002. Since 2009, the amount of krokodil seized in Russia has increased 23-fold. This is according to the article from Time Magazine [6]. In Russia, if a person does an extensive search on the internet, the list will give a list of recipes and instructions on how to cook it. Most users are not just looking for what desomorphine is, but how they can use it. In addition, it has spread the fastest in the poorest and most remote parts of Russia where young people are in a constant state of boredom.

Krokodil Drug Addiction Treatment

The first step for clients struggling with designer drug addiction is to complete a detox program. Detox involves processing any drugs in their system and allowing the mind and body to return to their normal way of functioning. The detox process will look different for everyone because how long the drug stays in your system can vary. For some, it may require medical assistance due to the severity of the withdrawal symptoms.

Through the admissions process, our team at We Level Up Florida is working to determine the severity of a client’s addiction and dependence, as well as any unique factors that may influence their recovery process. Moreover, with this information, they will ensure admission to the most beneficial treatment facility, help with travel arrangements, and develop a personalized treatment plan.

Benefits of An Inpatient Krokodil Drug Detox Program:

  • 24/7 Medical Observation
  • Luxury Facilities & Amenities
  • Medication Assistance for Withdrawal Symptoms
  • Nutritional Supplements Provided To Support Detox
  • Access To Alternative Detox Therapies

Holistic therapies may also work during krokodil withdrawal. Some clinics use these treatments to help lessen stress levels, improve overall well-being, and control cravings. In addition, meditation and mindfulness techniques can help the person relax and focus on the here and now rather than thinking about other things.

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Find the Right Primary Mental Health with Co-Occurring Addiction Diagnosis

Professional treatment at a medical detox facility is critical for safe and effective recovery. Drug detox can be a long process but is necessary to overcome the addiction. Once the krokodil detox process has been safely done, then an individualized treatment plan is developed. During treatment, individuals who have struggled with krokodil addiction will learn skills and tools to help them stay off of these drugs and lead a better life.

If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to krokodil drug, get them the safest help they need and deserve.

Inpatient medical detox and residential primary addiction treatment may be available at our affiliated facility at Level Up West Palm Beach Rehab. For some primary behavioral health treatment clients, medical detox and or addiction rehab may be required first.  If you have a co-occurring severe substance abuse diagnosis, please contact us prior to beginning inpatient mental health therapy. Treatment services may vary. Please call us to learn which treatment options are most suited for your individual needs.



[1] NCBI – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25710781/

[2] NCBI – https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Desomorphine

[3] US State Department – https://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/Research/USCC%20Staff%20Report_Fentanyl-China%E2%80%99s%20Deadly%20Export%20to%20the%20United%20States020117.pdf

[4] The New York Times Magazine – https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/16/magazine/china-fentanyl-drug-ring.html

[5] UCPS -https://www.ucps.k12.nc.us/cms/lib/NC01910453/Centricity/Domain/119/documents/TheSafetyNet-December2013.pdf

[6] Time Magazine – http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2078355,00.html

[7] Krokodil Drug Addiction » Drug Alcohol AddictionWe Level Up