Three people have been hospitalized in suburban Chicago after using the flesh-eating synthetic opiate desomorphine, referred to on the street as Krokodil.
The morphine derivative is eight to 10 times as potent as morphine and about three times more potent than heroin. It contains codeine and toxic chemicals like iodine, gasoline, paint thinner, cleaning oil or lighter fluid.
"If you want to kill yourself, this is the way to do it," said Dr. Abhin Singla, director of addiction services at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet.
The opiate is rarely ever separated from the harmful chemicals used to synthesize it. The result is rotting flesh. All three patients are being treated for gangrene.
Singla said one 25-year-old female patient was “terrible. When she came in, she had the destruction that occurs because of this drug, over 70 percent of her lower body.”
The woman is in critical condition.
The chemicals destroy blood vessels at the injection sight and begin killing the muscle tissue.
Singla says the life expectancy after the first use of the drug in Russia is two years.
Krokodil, which is Russian for crocodile, is named for the scaly green skin it gives users once they begin developing gangrene.
It was manufactured a decade ago in Russia, where it is difficult to find heroin. It’s cheaper than heroin and it has become the scourge of Russia’s lower class. One hit of Krokodil is about $8 in the U.S., while heroin is $25-30.
The drug made it to America for the first time in September in Arizona and Utah.
“Where there is smoke there is fire, and we’re afraid there are going to be more and more cases,” Dr. Frank LoVecchio, the co-medical director at Banner’s Poison Control Center, told CBS5 Phoenix last month.