Flesh Rotting Krokodil Eats Russia’s Poor

krokodil drug

Russia’s drug problem with krokodil and others is alive and kicking, yet there’s not much being done about it.

A little more than a decade ago, Russian doctors discovered drug addicts with unusual patches of black-green, scaly flesh as if their skin was rotting from the inside out, and that’s exactly what was happening. From hospitals in Siberia to far east Russia, it was revealed that patients had been injecting a synthetic drug that kills users within two years at the latest: krokodil.

From the limited amount of drug treatment centers to the zero funds being spent on rehabilitation efforts, the poor are dying left and right from illicit and synthetic drug use.

What is Krokodil?

During the turn of the century in Russia, heroin prices spiked to new heights and the poor had to come up with something cheap to satisfy their cravings for that opiate rush. By combining codeine, gasoline, lighter fluid, red phosphorus (from matches), and hydrochloric acid, krokodil—also known as desomorphine—became commonly used. This cooked drug is made from the comfort of one’s home, as it is for Zhanna, according to TIME Magazine.

“The high is similar to heroin,” said Zhanna in her home in Yekaterinburg, Russia, to TIME. “You become more tolerant. You cannot stop.”

Users like Zhanna suffer memory loss, body weakness, and decaying skin leading to the loss of limbs, organ failure, and, eventually, a loss of life. Obtaining and sustaining employment is nearly impossible due to the symptoms of krokodil, as well as the choke hold that is addiction.

Not only that, but krokodil users entail many other severe consequences when abused:

  • Open ulcers, gangrene, phlebitis (vein inflammation)
  • Limb amputations
  • Meningitis
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Bone infections (osteomyelitis)
  • Pneumonia
  • Blood poisoning
  • Blood-borne virus transmission (HIV/HCV from sharing needles)
  • Rotting gums and tooth loss
  • Speech and motor skills impairment
  • Impaired concentration
  • Overdose
  • Death

Due to its cheap cost, high potency, and short-lived high, krokodil not only is a huge problem in many parts of the world, but it has also made its way to Arizona, according to the Huffington Post. According to the Federal Drug Control Service of Russia, 65 million doses of krokodil were confiscated during the first three months of 2011. It must be kept in mind that the amount of use, abuse, and the number of krokodil deaths are mostly undocumented due to the denial of treatment and acknowledgement of addiction as a disease in the country.

Where’s the Treatment?

Since the Russian government has deemed drug addiction as a moral deficiency rather than a mental or medical illness, it has reinforced a disciplinary approach. With heroin more readily available from Afghanistan and the cheaper krokodil alternative ready for the poor to abuse, treatment centers are more than a request, it’s a necessity.

According to The Moscow Times, “the country’s state-run rehab centers are few and far between, and therefore often full.”

Not only this, but some experts stated that “medication used at the centers and the lack of psychological counseling mean that the centers are not effective.” These rehabs believe in the cold turkey approach, leaving addicts suffering the immense physical withdrawal symptoms that can be occasionally deadly or cause severe physical and mental damage.

The very few treatment centers are led by Pentecostals and have helped such patients as Pavlova, who used krokodil for an unsurmountable six years, which never happens.

“God must have protected me,” said Pavlova, who may have survived, but she still has many of the drug’s trademark scars, as well as a speech impediment and a vacant gaze.

Zero Funds and Growing HIV

In 2011, the New York Times reported that there has been a massive increase in cases with HIV in Russia that have either come from injecting substances intravenously or from people having sex with drug addicts. Russia’s HIV/AIDS problem is also attributed by the little amount of efficient drug treatment centers and the lack of government help in helping addicts in need, leaving them more likely to get arrested rather than receive a clinical bed for recovery.

The country also has “one of the fastest spreading HIV epidemics in the world.” This catastrophic problem is a deadly issue due to the Russian government’s refusal to take action and treat addicts. Lack of help has led citizens to suffer without a hint of opportunity to obtain help.

“It turns out that these are the groups where the money must be directed to change the picture,” said Lev Zohrabyan, the Europe and Central Asia advisor of Unaids.

Right now, the budget to fund the fight to decrease drug addiction in Russia is exactly $0.


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Need Help?

Krokodil is a deadly problem, as well as opiates and drug abuse as a whole.

Here at Recovery Hub, we understand how hard it can be to abstain from drugs in the face of an addiction problem. Our addiction specialists are ready and waiting to guide you or a loved one to a healthier and happier way of life clean of drugs. For help today, call our 24-7 hotline at (844) 318-7500.

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