(NaturalNews) A deadly new street drug that reports indicate first originated in former-Soviet Russia has apparently made its way to the U.S., where at least two unconfirmed cases were recently identified in Arizona. Known as "krokodil," which is Russian for crocodile, the cheap alternative to heroin literally destroys skin tissue and blood vessels, turning users' skin into a type of zombie flesh that starts to fall off after prolonged use.
According to MyFoxPhoenix.com, two patients recently admitted to a local poison control center near Phoenix exhibited all the signs of krokodil use, marking one of the first known instances ever of the drug's use in the U.S. These patients reportedly admitted to doctors later that they had, indeed, used the deadly street drug, which authorities aware of its existence hoped would never actually make it to America.
It is made from the pain-relieving pharmaceutical drug codeine combined with lighter fluid and paint thinner, according to the Washington Post, and it is injected intravenously just like heroin. But it is a whole lot cheaper, which is why many impoverished addicts began using it in Russia. Since that time, it has spread to some countries in Europe, including the U.K., according to Vice.com.
When combined, this mixture of codeine with various chemical solvents results in the production of the psychoactive agent desomorphine, which was first synthesized in the U.S. back in 1932 as a substitute for morphine. Desomorphine was later scrapped after it proved to be 10 times more potent than morphine, not to mention far more addictive, which defeated its intended purpose.
But drug addicts, mostly hailing from Russia and some European countries, looking for a cheap high eventually figured out a way to manufacture it themselves using extremely toxic chemicals. And now some American drug addicts are learning how to make it as well.
"This is really frightening," stated Dr. Aaron Skolnik, a toxicologist at Arizona's Banner Health non-profit healthcare system, to MyFoxPhoenix.com. "This is something we hoped would never make it to the U.S. because it's so detrimental to the people who use it. [Krokodil] cause[s] damage to the blood vessels, damage to the tissue and there are horrific pictures from Russia that show skin literally falling off the bone."
Krokodil users are injecting the worst kinds of caustic chemicals directly into their bloodstreams
When the various chemicals used to make krokodil are mixed with codeine, they also produce caustic, or corrosive, chemical byproducts that end up directly inside users' bodies and bloodstreams. These highly toxic byproducts end up rotting away flesh, creating abscesses and eventually gangrene. And according to doctors, regular users of krokodil can expect to die in about three years.
"When you use the krokodil ... really what you're doing is injecting red phosphorus and solvents into your body," says Matt Zuckerman, a toxicologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
In the U.S., codeine is available by prescription only, which means it is not as easily obtained here as it used to be in Russia when krokodil was in more widespread use -- Russia has since instituted a ban on over-the-counter (OTC) sales of codeine, which officials say has curbed krokodil use there. And yet at the same time, similar addictive and damaging drugs that some experts say are more threatening than krokodil are still widely available in the U.S.
"Tragically, we have an abundance of heroin, and an abundance of OxyContin, oxycodone, and other opiates," adds Zuckerman, noting that the U.S. faces an even more considerable threat from these other drugs than it does from krokodil.