You may be surprised to discover that as of 2011, Russian citizens used more heroin than anyone else in the world. Conservative estimates say that there are currently 1.5 million heroin users in Russia, and tens of thousands who die every year due to one drug addiction or another. In addition, HIV contraction due to needle-sharing is on the rise, in contrast to most other countries.
Who is to blame? Well, Russia’s close proximity to world-wide heroin producer Afghanistan definitely isn’t helping. Beginning in 1979, Russia entered a ten-year-long conflict with the Afghans, who in turn began the opium trade in effort to fund their defense. Ironically, the Russians quickly became their biggest consumers. For example, Kovokuznetsk, which lies near the Kazakhstan border, was once a successful industrial city. Now in near ruin, the city exemplifies Russia’s drug problem, with as much as 20% of its population addicted to heroin.
But Russians are dealing with a drug that is even worse than heroin – krokodil. So-called because of the effect to the user’s skin, turning it scaly as it is literally being eaten from the inside out. This occurs due to the extensive damage done to blood vessels and tissue. But bad skin isn’t the only problem – eventually small appendages and even entire limbs will rot away or need amputation. In addition, it causes severe brain damage that is non-reversible. Speech and motor skills can be severely affected, so even those who survive this drug may be permanently incapacitated for the rest of their lives.
Krokodil is commonly described as a sort of heroin moonshine/designer drug, as it is cooked with desomorphine (a synthetic opiate), formic acid, and eye drops, among other strange and dangerous chemicals. These increase the initial effects of the drug.
By the way, formic acid is a naturally occurring acid found in ant venom.
The physically destructive effects of krokodil are mainly due to poor synthesis, which renders the drug as mostly toxic by-products. Comparatively speaking, there is a rather small amount of the actual painkiller desomorphine, which is roughly three times more potent than heroin. Simply put, the drug is not refined or purified correctly. Withdrawal symptoms can last as long as a month, and result in pain so severe some addicts are put into induced comas to escape the living hell.
Many of the desperate and destitute people of Russia have turned to krokodil because it’s less expensive than heroin. It’s also more addictive, faster acting, and easier to manufacture. Most of the ingredients can be purchased at any number of Russia’s 24-hour pharmacies. The average time from first use to death is approximately two years.
The government and authorities have done little to nothing to curb this threat. What’s more, this drug may have reached the United States. During the last two years, one case was reported St. Louis, Missouri, and two others in Phoenix, Arizona. Other possible cases in Illinois and Ohio have not been confirmed.
If you suspect you or someone you know is an addict, please seek help immediately.