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Medicine United States News

First Cases of Flesh-Eating Drug Emerge In the United States 618

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Having spent the last decade wreaking havoc in Russia, a flesh-eating drug called Krokodil has arrived in Arizona, reports Eliza Gray at Time Magazine. The Banner Poison Control Center has reported the first two users of the drug which makes user's skin scaly and green before it rots away [Warning: Graphic Images]. Made of codeine, a painkiller often used in cough syrup, and a mix of other materials including gasoline, paint thinner, and alcohol, Krokodil become popular in Russia because it costs 20 times less than heroin and can be made easily at home. Also known as Desomorphine, Krokodil has sedative and analgesic effects, and is around 8-10 times more potent than morphine. When the drug is injected, it rots the skin by rupturing blood vessels, causing the tissue to die. As a result, the skin hardens and rots, sometimes even falling off to expose the bone. 'These people are the ultimate in self-destructive drug addiction,' says Dr. Ellen Marmur. 'Once you are an addict at this level, any rational thinking doesn't apply.' The average life span of a Krokodil user is two to three years, according to a 2011 TIME investigation of the drug's prevalence in Russia."
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First Cases of Flesh-Eating Drug Emerge In the United States

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  • Gross, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 28, 2013 @02:11PM (#44980175)

    Seems to be a somewhat self-limiting problem. Users will die off fairly rapidly.

    • Re:Gross, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @02:31PM (#44980295)
      But it's not. Drug users want something cheap and accessible. The market will always be there, even if only a few partake. If heroine were legal, nobody would die. But so long as we think they deserve it, it's ok to enforce policies that kill millions.
      • Re:Gross, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 28, 2013 @02:50PM (#44980433)

        If heroine were legal, nobody would die.

        Like nobody dies from alchohol abuse?

        Maybe fewer people would die. But it's obviously not "nobody."

        • Re:Gross, but... (Score:5, Informative)

          by hydrofix ( 1253498 ) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @03:30PM (#44980677)

          Like nobody dies from alchohol abuse?

          Actually, you mostly die of heroin through accidental or deliberate overdose, or through associated problems like contracting HIV through a dirty IV injection needle, that are not actually related to heroin per se. Because what comes to physiological effects, opioids, such as heroin, are actually less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, even in prolonged use. There is an increased chance of infections due to the suppressing effect opioids have on the body's immune system, but that's about it.

          Of course, this if you ignore the horrible consequence of extreme dependence and very difficult withdrawal from heroin (the withdrawal can actually be itself fatal), which means it's very hard to stop taking it once you get hooked on heroin. But you will not die of it, if you keep to your body's tolerance levels. Alcohol dependence could be considered much worse, because daily heavy drinking is so extremely detrimental for your health, and if you are unable to stop drinking, it will inevitably lead to a fatal failure of some vital organ, such as the liver.

          Smoking, too, is very bad for your health, and safely injecting high-purity heroin a few times per day is probably less harmful in the long run than smoking a pack of cancer sticks per day. It has to be noted though, that if you decide to become a heroin addict, your life will be absolutely dominated by the graving for this substance, probably for the rest of your life. This can have devastating effects on thing many people find very important in life, such as career and family relations. Smoking addiction, on the other hand, while physically probably more unhealthy, still lets you lead a relatively normal life.

          • Re:Gross, but... (Score:5, Informative)

            by demonlapin ( 527802 ) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @03:38PM (#44980709) Homepage Journal
            Heroin withdrawal is not fatal. Alcohol, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates are the three drug classes with life threatening withdrawal syndromes. Heroin withdrawal is still extraordinarily unpleasant, but it's not deadly.
            • Re:Gross, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

              by hovelander ( 250785 ) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @07:39PM (#44982193)

              Poor, crazy Amy Winehouse being the perfect example of what you mean there. Her death is what clued me into the fact that alcohol withdrawal can be life threatening. Say what you will about her antics, but I would still take her music over what has come out of the pop scene this year. No question.

              But newly hearing about Krokodil today has my cynic badge revoked. I haven't been shocked by something in the news for a very long time. Appalled, yeah, of course. Truly shocked? Krokodil accomplished that today.

              Using Meth or Crack as a shorthand for drug addled will soon be overtaken by the word "Krok".

              I'm a military guy, but after seeing the pictures of this and that Vice documentary listed below, just...

              Oh my God

              • by lgw ( 121541 )

                Yeah - libertarian though I am, sometimes government intervention in someone's life really is the lesser evil. Sheesh.

                • Re:Gross, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @08:42PM (#44982503)

                  The libertarian in me says that nothing of this would happen if heroin was easier to get by those that need it. I highly doubt people really want to take that crap over heroin...

                  • The rational human in me agrees. I've long argued for the legalization of most recreational drugs. Caveat is combined with good education and better recovery/rehab/training/counseling. Main rule would be "do not operate under the influence" be it vehicle or in the workplace of power machinery.

                    Intervention gets interesting. Do we intervene when someone seems bent on self-destruction to the point of death or decides while "drug addled" to commit suicide? So we sober them up. What if they still decide to

                  • Re:Gross, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

                    by h4ck7h3p14n37 ( 926070 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @12:41AM (#44983407) Homepage

                    Gee, you think? It appears that American society has collectively learned nothing from the Prohibition days.

                    Rather than trying to understand why people use drugs or doing something to help people, society at large just likes to judge and label them "losers". For a supposedly "Christian" nation this is pretty f'ing pathetic.

                    I live in Chicago and have seen what happens to people when they can't get access to treatment or when they decide to take a trip to the 'hood for their fix. Most of the addicts I have known have wanted to quit, but the help's not there for them in many cases. One of my ex-girlfriends died from an overdose a few years ago. Thankfully some of the other people I knew were able to get clean after many years of trying.

                    We should be pursuing harm reduction strategies, but again, these are just "losers", so it's good if they die. Right?

              • Re:Gross, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

                by hovelander ( 250785 ) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @08:12PM (#44982385)

                Before anyone goes on about who's seen worse shit as a member of the military, it is always going to be the case where someone has seen something more fucked up. Always going to be the case and always was, so it's a pointless debate to get into.

                My point there is that seeing the effects on that woman who's poisoned 65% of the meat from her bones, crying naked and living dead on the table? I would choose to unsee that. I would go to the clinic in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and pay to unsee that.

                Not something I say lightly. Don't even mind much for any opinions on that decision. I want to unsee the guy's dead white flesh plopping into a bucket after a nurse cuts open the plastic wrap the addict's used to have some semblance he still had a leg. (Spoiler Alert: He didn't)

      • Sure they would. People die every day from alcohol and its legal.

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @02:13PM (#44980193)

    the drug apparently needs some work....

  • Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blue trane ( 110704 ) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @02:17PM (#44980213) Homepage Journal

    Legalize heroin.

    • Re:Solution (Score:4, Insightful)

      by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @02:33PM (#44980319)

      That's a solution like legalizing stabbing is a solution to gun violence.

      By all means, legalize non-addictive drugs (e.g. marijuana, MDMA, LSD), but heroin is something else entirely. People shouldn't have their lives destroyed just because some skilled salesman convinced them to try it. It's not good for the user, and it's not good for society. It's only good for the dealer. The last thing this country needs is the marketing arm of Philip Morris or InBev pushing an even worse drug.

      • Re:Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sjames ( 1099 ) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @02:45PM (#44980405) Homepage Journal

        So why do we screw up their lives after a skilled salesman convinces them to try it by throwing them in jail? Isn't that bad for all the reasons you mentioned?

        I don't think we want active sales and marketing for heroine, but jailing addicts and driving them to dangerously impure and inconsistent street drugs seems like a bad idea. Especially if it eventually drives them to krokodil.

        Perhaps the clean stuff should be legally sold at the pharmacy but with no advertising at all and the pharmacist must giv you a pamphlet on drug treatment and tell you heroine is a bad idea when he hands it over.

      • Re:Solution (Score:5, Informative)

        by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @02:48PM (#44980425) Homepage

        Nah, legalize everything.

        Let God sort it out.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 28, 2013 @02:19PM (#44980219)

    So where do the side effects (of rotting skin, etc.) come from? The active ingredient itself?

    If not, this is in fact a strong argument against blanket-banning of drugs (a long-term favorite of US and US-backed international policy makers), since criminalising encourages home making, impure drugs, uncontrollable use, and so on, and so forth.

    The alternative is to decriminalise use, then regulate, and make sure people who lose themselves in drugs get the help they need to get back on their feet. Like Portugal did, and does. But the US won't like that because then it can't go on waging war on drugs. And that would cut into the DEA's playtime. Can't have that, now can we?

    • by harperska ( 1376103 ) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @02:41PM (#44980369)

      The linked io9 article suggests that the rotting skin effects are due to the horribly impure byproducts. Krokodil gets you addicted from the potency of the Desomorphine. Krokodil rots off your flesh because of the gasoline and paint thinner used in its production and then not purified out before injection. Apparently gasoline circulating in your veins causes blood vessels to burst leading to necrosis.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 28, 2013 @02:21PM (#44980241)

    If we treated addiction like the disease it is instead of moralizing it as a crime, we could help these people become productive members of society again instead of driving them to slow suicide. If safe drugs were available in free clinics and addicts received treatment, nobody would choose krokodil, nobody would be robbed for drug money, gangs would have one less source of funding, and these victims would be able to overcome their disease.

  • Slow news day? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 28, 2013 @02:32PM (#44980311)

    The countries where this is actually problem, codeine is available OTC. This isn't the case here in the US. It's probably easier for people here to get their hands on heroin.

  • by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @02:34PM (#44980325) Homepage

    Someone please tell me this is an Onion story.


  • by p00kiethebear ( 569781 ) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @02:42PM (#44980373)
    Something needs to be made clear. Desomorphine itself does not rot flesh. With a little extra work the solution can be purified and there are users that DO take the time to do this. It's when the solution is simply thrown together and 'cooked down' that health problems occur. Street level users making it on their own don't take the time to purify it.
    • We need another warning label on gasoline.

      "Do not inject directly into veins."

      That should solve the problem.

  • media inaccuracy (Score:5, Informative)

    by drwho ( 4190 ) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @02:49PM (#44980429) Homepage Journal

    It is not the drug (desomorphine) that kills, it is the impurities, mostly silica put into the codeine pills to poison people who try to make illicit drugs out of them. It is the government that is killing people by requiring these adulterants.

  • by bluescrn ( 2120492 ) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @02:57PM (#44980473)
    Make it hard to get hold of pure, *relatively* safe drugs... and people end up doing shit like this...
  • by cervesaebraciator ( 2352888 ) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @03:04PM (#44980525)

    Anyone who uses something so destructive to his own body has a sick and twisted soul. But the good response to a twisted soul is not to say they deserve what is done to their body, anymore than the good response to a sick body is to say that it deserves to be separated from its soul. The good response is to seek the healing of both.

    I do not believe in the drug war, but neither do I agree with those who would scoff, shrug, and say that it doesn't matter. Some of the comments in this vein are lacking in compassion and in humanity. I cannot see a great distinction in kind, though perhaps their is some difference in degree, between the mind of the inhumane person who would be rid of those who would harm themselves and the mind of the diseased man who would take drugs to rid him of himself. Both are antithetical to life.

    I do not believe in the drug war because the fighting metaphor is taken too literally. A drug war ought to be fought as we fight diseases, with treatment and medicine meant to heal, rather than as we fight foreign enemies, with guns and internment.

    I do not believe in the drug war because there are people willing to take a drug like this, a drug whose very name indicates its self-destructive potential, and therefore I cannot believe that the nightmare of the prison system or the fear thereof would end such self-abuse. Whether people do such drugs out of desperation or vice, punishment can have little positive effect on those whose recreation looks nightmarish to a person of ordinary psychology. They need help and help directed at the root of the problem. And since this becomes a political question, I would add that I would sooner taxes be spent helping people awaken from old nightmares than wake up to new ones. I do not believe in the drug war, but I do believe that we should do what we can to heal diseases of the mind which accept the destruction of the body.

  • by rueger ( 210566 ) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @03:52PM (#44980795) Homepage
    This is likely a good time to talk up Insite, [] a "safe injection" site in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

    The premise of Insite is simple: provide a clean, safe place for addicts to shoot up, under medical supervision. Insite doesn't provide drugs, but at least it offers some kind of controlled environment for injection.

    The upshot is ten years of servicing addicts, and not one death. It Just Works.

    Of course our law 'n' order neo-con Harper government is determined to shut it down, crying "Think of The Children" while pocketing donations from the big US private prison companies...
  • Darwin (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @04:11PM (#44980925) Homepage Journal

    Is hard at work.

  • by hebertrich ( 472331 ) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @05:16PM (#44981365)

    there's no words to say the shock i was just dealt. freaking destroy the links to the images .NOONE NEEDS TO SEE THIS .

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      There were enough clear warnings. If you cannot read, you are bound to run into nasty things now and then....

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @05:23PM (#44981413) Journal
    Codeine (the main precursor to krokodil) is already prescription-only in the US, so the precursors aren't cheap and available. So there's no great advantage for opiate addicts; they seem more likely to stick with oxy, heroin, or other already-common opiates that kill you somewhat slower and without the flesh-eating side-effcts.
  • by Picass0 ( 147474 ) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @05:38PM (#44981505) Homepage Journal

    ...drug consumes addict.

The absent ones are always at fault.