Where did Krokodil come from?
Desomorphine, otherwise known by its street name, Krokodil or ‘The Zombie Drug’ is an opioid derivative of codeine. Originally, Desomorphine originally was used in Switzerland and Russia to treat severe pain, until it was made illegal in 1981.
Krokodil that is found on the street is assumed to contain Desomorphine, however due to illegal, home-made engineering of the drug, it often contains other unknown substances, and in a lot of cases, no Desomorphine at all.
How is Krokodil produced at home?
The process of ‘cooking’ Krokodil is similar to the production of illegal methamphetamine (Meth) or TIK.
Drug dealers and users can easily purchase the ingredients from their local pharmacy and hardware store, which include:
- Paint thinner;
- Lighter fluid;
- Hydrochloric acid;
- and red phosphorus scraped from the strike pads on matchboxes.
Homemade versions of Krokodil are extremely dangerous because the chemicals used are not always ‘cooked’ or combined correctly.
Users mix codeine with the concoction of the above solvents, resulting in a cloudy yellow liquid with a pungent smell and an extremely potent high causing a sedative and analgesic effect, similar to Heroin.
Negative effects of Krokodil
The name Krokodil refers to chlorocodide, a codeine derivative in the synthetic path to Desomorphine.
However, the drug also gets its name from what it does to its user’s skin, turning it green; scaly and bumpy like a crocodile’s.
The most common negative side-effects thus far are from injecting Krokodil. If a user misses their vein and injects into flesh, that part of flesh will develop abscesses and in some cases flesh will fall off in chunks.
Reported health risks caused by injection use:
- Blood vessel damage;
- Open ulcers;
- Soft tissue and skin infections;
- Limb amputations;
- Speech and motor skills impairment;
- Memory loss and impaired concentration;
- Liver and kidney damage;
- Rotting gums & tooth loss;
- Blood-borne virus transmission (HIV/HCV due to needle sharing);
- Blood poisoning;
- Bone infections (Osteomyelitis);
The negative effects on soft tissue occur relatively quickly after a person begins using Krokodil.
Krokodil addiction is a serious problem due to its high potency and short duration of effect, usually only lasting about 2 hours. While the life expectancy of heroin addict is 4 to 7 years, the life expectancy of a Krokodil addict is only a year or 2.
A mother’s story
The mother of one of the Port Elizabeth victims accused the authorities of being in denial about krokodil.
“In Port Elizabeth there are technically no krokodil addicts because of the denial factor. It is not spoken of but is silently consumed and abused,” said Martha Dean.
Asked about its prevalence, and how the department of health is responding to it, ministry spokes- person Joe Maila said: “I don’t even know what you talking about.”
Krokodil made local headlines in July last year when Port Elizabeth’s Herald newspaper reported that Dean staged a protest outside the magistrate’s court where her 25-year- old daughter was appearing on a charge of possessing the drug.
“Mr Magistrate please don’t ‘free’ my daughter to die on the streets,” read the placard she was carrying.
The court ordered Bonita Dean to be sent to the nearby Noupoort Rehabilitation Centre. She escaped, made her way back to Port Elizabeth and, four months later, was dead.
Her mother said: “I didn’t know who she was anymore. The drug changed her from a good Christian girl into one of Port Elizabeth’s highest-paid prostitutes.”
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