You’ve got to love the names of 21st Century drugs, if nothing else. Allow me to introduce you to krokodil:
It is a drug for the poor, and its effects are horrific. It was given its reptilian name because its poisonous ingredients quickly turn the skin scaly. Worse follows. Oleg and Sasha have not been using for long, but Oleg has rotting sores on the back of his neck.
Photographs of late-stage krokodil addicts are disturbing in the extreme. Flesh goes grey and peels away to leave bones exposed. People literally rot to death.
It’s desomorphine, a lab synthetic that cooks out of codeine-based headache tablets with iodine and lighter fluid. Krokodil addicts stink of iodine. Before they start to stink of rotting flesh.
With heroin withdrawal, the main symptoms last for five to 10 days. After that there is still a big danger of relapse but the physical pain will be gone. With krokodil, the pain can last up to a month, and it’s unbearable.
Codeine-based headache pills are, of course, sold over the counter in pharmacies, and the signature of abuse isn’t as easy to spot as, say, asking for a crate of cough medicine. At least until some poor scaly lizard-bastard rocks up stinking of iodine. Controls are hopeless, and, in any case, how many people are really going to stand there in front of a bunch of reptile junkies and say, no, I’m not going to sell you these pills because you’re going to cook them into a death juice called krokodil for fuck’s sake?
“Addicts are being sold drugs by normal Russian women working in pharmacies, who know exactly what they’ll be used for,” said Yevgeny Roizman, an anti-drugs activist who was one of the first to talk publicly about the krokodil issue earlier this year. “Selling them to boys the same age as their own sons. Russians are killing Russians.”