PHOENIX — A highly addictive drug whose name derives from the green, scaly sores that develop on users’ rotting flesh was reported to have found a toehold in the United States this week.
In Phoenix, physicians told toxicologists at the Banner Good Samaritan Poison Control Center that they spotted symptoms consistent with krokodil, an intravenous drug that is prevalent in Russia and Eastern European countries, according to a statement released to the Los Angeles Times.
Although toxicology reports have yet to confirm the presence of krokodil, reports in the media sounded the alarm, prompting fascination and speculation.
“The Most Horrifying Drug in the World Comes to the US,” said Time magazine. Mother Jones minced no words: “Zombie Apocalypse Drug Reaches US: This Is Not a Joke.”
The appeal of news about krokodil (pronounced “crocodile”) stems partly from its dramatic consequences on the human body: The drug ravages the flesh, exposing the bones, destroying internal organs and leaving users vulnerable to infection. Users quickly develop abscesses and gangrene, and often amputation is the only way to protect a patient’s life.
According to New York’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, it can be made with ordinary ingredients, including paint thinner, codeine, iodine, hydrochloric acid, red phosphorus, gasoline and lighter fluid.
Krokodil is essentially a back-alley version of desomorphine, which was introduced in 1932 as a less addictive version of morphine.
But according to a study in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, desomorphine turned out more addictive and up to 10 times stronger than the drug it was meant to replace, so it was mostly discontinued. Switzerland produced the drug until the 1950s, and today, desomorphine is banned in Austria and Germany.
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