What Is Krokodil? Treating “Zombie Drug” Addiction

Opioid addiction is a national crisis that affects millions of people every year. In 2019, nearly 70% of all drug overdoses involved an opioid. And in recent years, the emergence of cheaper, more dangerous opioids has increased, making the situation even more dangerous. Among these new cheap and dangerous opioids, krokodil has emerged as a major threat to public health. But what is krokodil, and what are the risks involved with using it? Below is everything you need to know about the Russian drug krokodil and its effects.

What Is Krokodil?

Krokodil, Russian for “crocodile,” is a type of opioid best known for its severe side effects on the skin, and as a result, is often referred to as the crocodile drug. It was first introduced in Russia in the early 2000s. Krokodil is a synthetic, or lab-made, opioid known as desomorphine, which is a type of prescription drug used to help relieve pain. Even though the prescription drug has been outlawed for decades, its illegal use continues to rise. While the drug remains most popular in areas of Russia and Ukraine, krokodil in the US has been reported in numerous states.A typical krokodil recipe includes a mixture of toxic chemicals and opioids. Normally, a users of this opioid will combine codeine tablets with things like household cleaners, gasoline, or lighter fluid to create a substance that closely resembles desomorphine. This homemade creation results in a cheaper alternative for heroin that is not only incredibly toxic, but addictive as well.

Other Names for Desomorphine

The drug krokodil goes by many different names. Below are some of the most common street names for desomorphine:

  • Crocodile drug
  • Crocodile heroin
  • Russian magic
  • Poor man’s heroin
  • Zombie drug
  • Flesh-eating drug

How Is Krokodil Used?

Russian Drug Krokodil

Krokodil is typically administered intravenously via injection. According to some reports, krokodil is extremely fast-acting, and injection can result in a high in as little as two to three minutes. Since the typical krokodil recipe involves the combination of opioids and other toxic chemicals, testing has shown certain samples to be 10-15 times more potent than morphine, and nearly three times as deadly. The chemical makeup of krokodil closely resembles that of heroin, but with a much shorter high. After the rapid onset, a typical krokodil high will only last for about two hours, compared to the four or five hours associated with a heroin high. Due to this short duration, many krokodil users find themselves dosing more rapidly to avoid coming down. With a shorter high and more frequent use, people who use krokodil are more likely to develop a physical dependence on the drug.

Krokodil Drug Effects

What gives krokodil its infamous street name is its effect on the skin. When used, krokodil can have a serious side effect known as necrosis. Necrosis is a medical condition in which the blood stops flowing to certain parts of the body. As a result, the loss of blood flow causes the living tissue to die off, which turns the skin black and scaly, hence the term krokodil skin.


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There is no cure for necrosis, and as a result, it can lead to other negative health effects such as gangrene and amputation. Krokodil is known as the “zombie drug” and the “flesh-eating drug” for these reasons.

Other side effects of krokodil use include:

  • Blood vessel damage (thrombophlebitis)
  • Gangrene
  • Open ulcers
  • Skin and soft tissue infections
  • Limb amputations
  • Muscle deterioration (krokodil rot)
  • Rotting gums or tooth loss
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Overdose
  • Death

Get Help for Opioid Addiction in Las Vegas, Nevada

Help for Krokodil Heroin Addiction in Las Vegas, Nevada

Opioid addiction is a serious problem across the United States, including Nevada. In 2018 alone there were more than 350 fatal opioid overdoses. Fortunately, addiction treatment for opioid use can be extremely successful. If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to krokodil or other opioids, the time to get help is now.

At the Vance Johnson Recovery Center, located in Las Vegas, Nevada, our staff is well trained in treating opioid addiction. We understand that not all addiction is created equal, which is why we take an evidence-based approach to every case of addiction. This means your individual circumstances are taken into consideration when planning and developing a plan for your specific recovery.

Our inpatient and residential programs can also provide comfortable, safe settings to support your growth towards recovery.

At our Las Vegas rehab, we are committed to your recovery, and we prove that through a continuation of care that follows you both during and after your time with us. The first step towards krokodil addiction is deciding to commit yourself to treatment. You can take that step now by contacting one of our admissions specialists at 888-828-2623 or by using our confidential online contact form.

No one needs to suffer from krokodil or opioid addiction alone. And whenever you’re ready, the Vance Johnson Recovery Center can help you start on a path to a healthier, happier life.

Las Vegas Addiction Recovery

Located in dynamic Las Vegas, Nevada, the Vance Johnson Recovery Center (VJRC) a 44-bed facility is run by a skilled multi-disciplinary team of medical and behavioral health professionals that includes nurses, counselors, and doctors, along with complementary and alternative medicine specialists to provide our clients with a transformational experience that encompasses mind, body, and spirit. Our approach is holistic and grounded in research and evidenced-based best practices that help people develop the awareness and skills required to achieve and sustain recovery.

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