Krokodil: A Whole New World Of Self-Destruction

According to unofficial estimates, Russia is the country with the highest amount of heroin addicts; approximately two million. However, not everyone can afford this drug.

Krokodil (Крокодил; it literally means Crocodile) is a drug more powerful and more destructive than heroin and it is also a lot cheaper. Whereas heroin may cost $150 US and up per use, Krokodil can be obtained for $6-$8 US per injection.

So, what is Krokodil?

It is home made and pretty much anyone can cook it. This drug is pretty much codeine (narcotic found at any pharmacy) turned into desomorphine (the finished drug) by a relatively easy process of cooking. The problem with the desomorphine, though, is that it has to be made by professionals in a special facility (laboratory) to be perfectly pure. So these random citizens trying to perform this at home are going to use home products to turn the codeine into desomorphine, which is why the results of the consumption of this drug are so destructive. They use gasoline as a solvent, red phosphorus (which we find on average matches), iodine and hydrochloric acid (a highly corrosive substance found naturally in gastric acid, it also balances the pH – level of acidity – which is why it is used in swimming pool treatment solutions, making it easy to purchase at specialized supermarkets). I’m no chemist but, looking at these ingredients, I’m going to guess it’s pretty deadly.

What does this do to you?

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happens to someone who injects such a solution into their blood stream. The corrosive acids will eventually turn the skin greenish with a rough texture, which is why this drug is called Krokodil. The skin around the injection site is the first to gain this appearance and becomes an easy target for gangrene. The skin literally becomes rotten and, in time, it ends up sloughing off, exposing the bone. My guess is, it’s terribly painful.

Dramatic Numbers

Victor Ivanov, the head of Russia’s Drug Control Agency, estimates that five percent of drug users in Russia are consuming Krokodil and other equally dangerous home made drugs. Heroin alone kills around 300 thousand people in Russia every year, but Krokodil brings a much faster death. Some of its consumers only inject it when they have no money to buy heroin; however, as soon as they manage to get the money (often by stealing) they will stop using the Krokodil. In poorer regions of Russia, though, people are becoming 24/7 Krokodil addicts, which gives them no longer than a year to live, from the moment they first inject this drug.

The fact that the trip is not long-lasting makes the consumers inject more often and in more quantity. The pain it causes is so unbearable (remember it rots skin off?) that they will keep injecting to make the pain go away, which makes it incredibly hard to fight this addiction – much less win the fight.


What worries me the most is that there are actually websites showing how to cook this drug (I’m not even going to name them!) and it’s a growing hidden epidemic. After seeing pictures of what people look like after some doses of Krokodil, I wonder how someone would ever do this to themselves. The picture that illustrates this article is disgusting enough, and I was careful to choose something that wouldn’t make most people vomit. (If you really want to see what happens next, I will leave the link below.) Having said this, why do people still get themselves into this? What could be so terrible about their lives that they pick the path to self destruction in such a sordid, painful way? What do you think?

Sources: (in Portuguese)

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