PHOENIX -- There is a warning for a new designer drug from Russia that has made its way into the Valley.
The drug is called Krokodil, Russian for crocodile, and is a deadly homemade mixture of codeine, red phosphorus, iodine, and paint thinner. It is also known as desomorphine, a cousin of morphine.
When taken, Krokodil eats skin from the inside out. The drug gets its name from the reptile-like skin it gives users.
The skin area surrounding where users inject Krokodil becomes discolored and scaly, and the tissue starts to die.
“When you inject this very acidic substance into your flesh or your skin or your veins, you can get infection,” said Dr. Ayrn O’Connor, medical toxicologist at Banner Good Samaritan and the Poison and Drug Information Center. “You can get tissue destruction and tissue death.”
Krokodil can be seen as a substitute for heroin. It is a third the price of heroin and about 10 times more potent than morphine.
“It has a very rapid onset of actions, so you still get that really nice rush which is why heroin addicts are using or abusing,” O’Connor said.
Banner’s Poison Control Center has encountered several cases of Krokodil use in the Valley and they are the first in the United States.
“Folks get what’s called not only gangrene, but they’ll get secondary infections, they’ll get boney infections. And ultimately they can either get amputations or they can have overwhelming infection, and that’s what can threaten their lives,” O’Connor said.
Once people start using Krokodil, they only have a 1-2 year life expectancy.
O’Connor said it will be important to survey closely for any increase or spike in Krokodil’s use in the Valley.
“Hopefully we won’t suffer the same kind of fate that Russia has seen,” O’Connor said.