ROTTING flesh, scaly skin and pus-filled gaping wounds… these symptoms may sound like something straight out of a horror film.
But this year has seen a number of cases of Brits living with these life-threatening injuries in secret – after becoming addicted to a new flesh-eating drug known as Krokodil, which experts say is “one of the worst drugs in the world”.
The dangerous substance – which can be homemade from a deadly concoction of household products – costs just a few pounds and creates a high similar to that of heroin.
Krokodil — Russian for crocodile — turns the skin green and scaly around the area where it’s injected as blood vessels burst and the skin rots away.
Horrifyingly, the deadly substance — which originated in Russia around a decade ago as a cheap alternative to heroin — is now set to take hold here in the UK, with desperate users being able to make it for a tenth of the price.
A woman in her forties was unable to attend Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court in August after taking the Class A substance, which is ten times more powerful than heroin.
Her barrister told the court the unnamed woman was being treated for “horrific” open sores in Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.
Last year, Somerset’s Taunton Deane Borough Council also reported problems with the drug, with a housing officer admitting: “The effects of the drug are so severe that addicts’ behaviour is untenable in hostels.”
Doctors estimate that from the point an addict first takes Krokodil, their life expectancy is a little over two years.
But why is the drug on the rise?
A killer drug cooked up in the kitchen
Alarmingly, Krokodil is extremely quick and simple to make.
Chemistry lecturer Dr Simon Cotton from the University of Birmingham, says: “It’s very easy to make Krokodil.
“It’s a one step process that can be done on a stove and it can be stewed up in under an hour
“The problem is, it’s not been purified so the crude product is injected.
“That means people aren’t just injecting the drug and this is what seems to cause the side effects including thrombosis, gangrene, abscesses and scaly skin which goes green and black – much like a crocodile.”
Krokodil – also known as desomorphine and the “zombie drug”- has been compared to already established drug epidemics like spice and heroin – but experts say it’s even more dangerous.
Speaking to The Sun Online, Chemist Click pharmacist Abbas Kanani says: “Without any exaggeration, Krokodil is probably one of the worst drugs in the world.
“The high from Krokodil doesn’t last as long as the high from heroin, so users inject more frequently.
“Cost-wise, this won’t deter users as it’s around 10 times cheaper than heroin.
“It’s concerning when any drug is made at home as there are no quality control measures in place.
“This means that the non-sterile method used to prepare drugs can cause an infection, and sharing needles can increase the chances of transmitting infections such as HIV and hepatitis.”
Speaking about the physical effects of the drug, pharmacist Abbas adds: “Life expectancy of a regular user is usually two years from when they first started using the drug.
“Heroin usually exhibits withdrawal symptoms that can be managed for around 10 days after discontinuation, but Krokodil’s withdrawal symptoms last for a month.
“Withdrawal usually requires the use of strong sedatives and tranquillisers to avoid passing out from the pain that comes with withdrawal.”
In just one week back in 2014 it was claimed Krokodil was responsible for the death of seven people, and 187 poisonings in the Siberian city of Surgut.
Strictly’s Stacey Dooley made a documentary about the danger of the drug the same year.
I could see the tendons moving in his rotting arm’
While these recent reports are an indication that the drug is becoming more high profile, they actually aren’t the first reports of Krokodil in the UK.
Gloucester-based doctor Allan Harris described in 2013 what he’d experienced first hand when treating a patient who’d taken Krokodil.
He told Vice: “It actually took out a huge crater of all the forearm muscle.
“When you took out the dead tissue you could actually see the tendons moving at the base of this crater and the bones as well.
“They put a free skin graft over the top, which all healed OK but it was horrendous.
“The muscles never grew back because they were completely gangrenous.”
The UK’s next epidemic
There are thousands of reported deaths in other countries where its use is more prevalent, like Russia, and experts warn that this could become a serious threat here, as virtually anyone can make the drug.
Shamir Patel, Consultant Pharmacist for Doctor-4-U.co.uk said: “Perhaps the most worrying thing is the relative ease with which this can be made at home using readily available items over the counter medicines and household items like paint thinner.
“With such a potent drug – which is 10 times as strong as heroin – so relatively easy to produce by pretty much anyone, there’s a real risk to the vulnerable who are already battling drug addiction.”
For help and advice for drug addiction, visit Talk to Frank.