Flesh-Eating Drug Makes Appearance In Joliet

Homemade heroin substitute "krokodil" originated in Russia and is now in U.S.

By Haley BeMiller
|  Thursday, Oct 10, 2013  |  Updated 6:09 PM CDT
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Krokodil first became popular in Russia and now has made its way across the ocean and to a Chicago suburb.

Krokodil first became popular in Russia and now has made its way across the ocean and to a Chicago suburb.

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A flesh-eating drug that became popular in Russia has made its way across the ocean and to a Chicago suburb.

Dr. Abhin Singla of Presence St. Joseph Medical Center said the Joliet facility this week treated three patients who said they used the drug known as "krokodil."

The substance is similar to morphine, Singla said, and possesses some of the same properties as methamphetamine. However, it's cheaper to obtain, and like meth, users can make it with codeine and everyday products such as gasoline and paint thinner.

Krokodil, which is the Russian word for crocodile, causes gangrene and abscesses on the user's body, Singla said, noting it has maimed his patients' arms and legs.

“It is a horrific way to get sick," he said. "The smell of rotten flesh permeates the room. Intensive treatment and skin grafts are required, but they often are not enough to save limbs or lives.”

Singla said some cases are so serious that muscles and bones become visible. The dead skin can also lead to infections that result in amputation or even death.

The drug can be injected or taken orally and has become a cheap alternative to heroin. Because of this, Singla said, these incidents might not mark the end of its use in Joliet.

“Will County’s already burgeoning heroin epidemic may have created a tolerance level to the point where users are now looking for cheaper and better highs,” he said.

Krokodil originated in Russia, but made its first U.S. appearance in Arizona at the end of September.

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