Officials on Look-Out for Krokodil

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MEDFORD, Ore. — It’s called “krokodil”, a substance similar to heroin. It gives users the same high as heroin, but then attacks their body.

There have been several cases already reported in the United States, and local health care providers and law enforcement are preparing if this drug hits Oregon.

Emergency room Dr. Anna Akita often deals with IV drug users coming in for infections.

“Anyone who uses intravenous drugs is at risk for skin infections,” explained Dr. Akita.

Other hospital staff like Akita are aware of another skin infection making its way to the country called “krokodil”.

“I have been receiving e-mail alerts through Medscape; American College of Emergency Physician have sent out alerts to let us know that it’s out there,” said Dr. Akita.

Medford Police officers are also on the alert, keeping track of this new drug.

“It’s way cheaper, and that’s why people make it because it’s cheap, but that’s also why it’s even worse for you than normal heroin. ‘Cause it’s made with very toxic drugs that never should be in your bloodstream,” explained Lt. Budreau.

Krokodil is made up of codeine pills, iodine, gasoline or paint thinner. Users get a high similar to heroin, but this drug reacts with flesh and begins eating the skin from the inside out.

Like many illegal drugs, krokodil is most likely cut several times before it reaches the user.

“Unfortunately we have a lot of heroin users in the valley,” said Lt. Budreau. “I think it’s similar enough that a user could confuse it with heroin.”

For now, there are no reported cases in Oregon. If a case comes up, detecting it is one problem.

“It would almost be impossible to distinguish cause of Krokodil versus just your run-of-the-mill flesh-eating bacteria, unless the patient owned up to using it, or someone came in and said the patient was using it,” said Dr. Akita.

Another issue is treating the infection.

“In any case of flesh eating bacteria, amputation is always a possibility depending on the degree of tissue destruction.”

Dr. Akita says if treatment does not work, the typical life-span of a person who has an infection from using krokodil, is about 1 to 3 years.