A flesh-eating drug popularized in Russia has surfaced in a Chicago suburb and has doctors scrambling to address it before it worsens the area’s already alarming heroin epidemic.
Presence St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Ill., has treated three patients for use of the heroin-substitute called “krokodil.” The drug is chemically similar to morphine and has some properties as methamphetamine, WMAQ-TV reported. But it’s more potent than heroin, cheaper to get than meth and easier to manufacture, using crude products like crushed codeine tablets, iodine and lighter fluids. Oh, and did we mention it will eat the flesh right off of your bones?
A hit of krokodil costs about $8 in the streets, while users pay $25 or $30 for heroin.
“It is a horrific way to get sick,” Dr. Abhin Singla of Presence St. Joseph told WMAQ. “The smell of rotten flesh permeates the room. Intensive treatment and skin grafts are required, but they often are not enough to save limbs or lives.”
From the Russian word for “crocodile,” the drug, which is injected, causes flesh to rot away through gangrene and abscesses on the skin, which slowly turns green. In some cases bones and muscle are visible. The exposed flesh makes victims vulnerable to possibly lethal infections.
The victims have significant damage to their skin from gangrene and in the case of one Chicago victim, it will take years of surgeries for her to walk again, Singla said.
Singla told the Chicago Sun-Times that he spoke with federal officials about the incursion of krokodil this week. Cases of the drug had already been reported in Arizona and Utah and he suspects a market may have already been created in Chicagoland.
“Will County’s already burgeoning heroin epidemic may have created a tolerance level to the point where users are now looking for cheaper and better highs,” he said.