The Zombie Drug—Krokodil, But Why A Name?

Desomorphine, the medical name for Russia’s very own version of cheap heroin, is a cocktail of iodine, codeine-containing medication, paint thinner, red phosphorus, hydrochloric acid and lighter fuel. It is an opiod-derivative of codeine that produces analgesic and sedative effects and is said to be highly-addictive, lethal and eight to 10 times as strong as morphine.

Krokodil emerged in the provinces of Russia in early 2000s but which spread is now reaching the shores of the United States. Its harmful characteristics caused horrible effects to users, who suffer from severe skin and vein damage, eventually leading to gangrene and ulcers. And because of the street drug’s instability and short high duration, users binge through frequent injecting, making it a risk factor for diseases, including hepatitis C and the dreaded HIV.

Going back in history, krokodil’s use emerged around the year 2002 in the rural areas of Russia and then quickly spread in the poorest communities, making over three million addicts in only after ten years. The country’s seizures of the drug increased 40 times from only two kilograms in 2006 up to 100 kilograms in 2011.

It was noted that police crackdown and shortage of heroin supply had contributed to the rapid rise of Krokodil use in Russia in 2010 alone. Additionally, its popularity was said to have been due to the easy and legal access of cheaper medications containing codeine, as compared to its more expensive counterpart, heroin.

Opposite to what users perceive to be a low-cost alternative of drugs for giving them a high, they actually pay expensively to what they get because tissues die (and eventually fall off the skin) and blood vessels burst wherever they inject the drug. And with such long-term effect, Krokodil earned its other common name ‘zombie drug,’ partly because frequent use also eventually causes death. A user can only last anywhere between two or three years.

A bit too late, only it was in June 2012 when the Russian government prohibited the sale of codeine-containing medications, but this, according to the media and scientific reports, the bans did slow down but did not stop users from injecting the drug.

And it’s not only Russia that became this monster-drug’s home, as it began reaching the shores of Western Europe (2011) and United States (2013).

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1 Response

  1. Nicknamous

    I thought that desomorphine came back into the drug scene in the 1990’s when Australian authorities started to find clandestine labs using codeine containing medications be used to make what Australian junkies were calling “Homebaked” to alleviate their drug withdrawal symptoms because of a shortage of heroin.

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