Harms Associated with Krokodil Use
"In recent years, harm reduction and drug treatment services from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and Kazakhstan began reporting severe health consequences associated with krokodil injecting. Although serious localized and systemic harms have previously been associated with injecting homemade opiates and stimulants in the region (Grund, 2002; Volik, 2008), the harms associated with krokodil injecting are extreme and unprecedented. The most common complications of krokodil appear to be serious venous damage and skin and soft tissue infections, rapidly followed by necrosis and gangrene (Gahr et al., 2012a, 2012b, 2012c; Skowronek et al., 2012). Our research further identified an impressive, undoubtedly incomplete, list of injuries and symptoms (Table 1), reported in the media (e.g. Shuster, 2011; Walker, 2011) and identified in YouTube clips and photographs on the internet. Importantly, this list includes several parts of the body that are not typically used as sites for injecting drugs. This suggests that the ill effects of krokodil are not limited to localized injuries, but spread throughout the body (Shuster, 2011; UNODC, 2012), with neurological, endocrine and organ damage associated with chemicals and heavy metals common to krokodil production (Lisitsyn, 2010).
"It is important to note that the described harms seem to become manifest relatively shortly after krokodil injecting is initiated. Present accounts of krokodil related harms often concern young people presenting in emergency rooms and surgeries with extreme and advanced complications. According to NGOs that work with people who inject krokodil, these young people have relatively short histories of using the drug. Mortality rates among young krokodil users are reportedly high (Akhmedova, 2012; Shuster, 2011; Walker, 2011), with official reports associating krokodil use with half of all drug-related deaths in at least two Oblasts (Walker, 2011)."