An extremely dangerous homemade narcotic which is being called “the worst drug in the world” is suspected in recent cases in several states and will likely make it to Iowa in the coming weeks.
It’s called “krokodil” and the toxic mix often results in amputations and can dissolve jawbones and teeth, much like methamphetamine, according to registered nurse Tammy Noble at the Iowa Poison Control Center.
“It causes the skin to become kind of scaly, almost like what you’d think of with a crocodile, similar to that, and oftentimes a green appearance,” Noble says, “because it’s eating the body from the inside out where this drug comes into contact with the tissues.”
One key ingredient is over-the-counter codeine-based headache pills mixed with iodine, gasoline, paint thinner or alcohol. Krokodil is believed to be behind several recent cases in Arizona, Oklahoma and Louisiana.
Noble, the poison center’s education coordinator, fears it will eventually reach Iowa, likely sooner than later.
“It used to be it would take months before we would start seeing it in the Midwest but because of the media, social media, now we are starting to see these drugs of abuse appear much quicker in the Midwest,” Noble says. “It’s only a matter of time before we’re going to start seeing it in our area.”
Reports say the drug first appeared in Russia about a decade ago but has quickly gained popularity in the past three years.
“It’s cheaper than people using heroin so some of the users are former heroin users who are now using this as an alternative,” Noble says. “What happens is, when people are using it, it ends up rotting the skin from the inside out.”
Krokodil may cost three times less heroin and the high is similar — though much shorter — usually around 90 minutes. Reports say the average life expectancy among krokodil addicts in Russia is two to three years.
Noble says anyone with concerns about this drug and other poisons can call the Sioux City-based Iowa Poison Control Center around-the-clock at 800-222-1222.