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Russian Heroin-Like Drug Enters the USA

Update Date: Sep 27, 2013 02:57 PM EDT

According to Arizona health officials, two cases of a Russian heroin-like drug surfaced recently. These cases are the first ever reported ones in the United States. The drug that has a street name of "krokodil," causes the user's skin and bone to rot painfully.

"As far as I know, these are the first cases in the United States that are reported," Frank LoVecchio, the co-medical director from the Banner Good Samaritan Poison & Drug Information Center, said reported by USA Today. "So we're extremely frightened."

Krokodil originates from Russia and is made by combining over-the-counter codeine-based pills used for headaches with iodine, gasoline, paint thinner or alcohol. When the drug is injected into one's system, it starts to kill tissue, which results in scaly and green skin. This particular side effect that makes the users look like crocodiles helped create the name. On top of that, it can also cause sores, abscesses and blood poisoning.

Even though these two cases are the first reported ones in the U.S., the drug is not new. According to an investigation detailed by TIME, krokodil, chemically known as desomorphine, first emerged in Siberia and the Russian Far East in 2002. The drug started gaining popularity in Russia as usage spread throughout that nation. In Russia, heroin is very difficult to get and when it is available, it is usually too pricey. Krokodil, which is three times cheaper, became the drug of choice.

When people use krokodil, they experience a high that is very similar to heroin. However, the high is much shorter than heroin, which could prompt people to use it more often, resulting in the nasty side effects. Due to the extreme side effects of this drug, krokodil users in Russia have a life expectancy of two to three years after starting the drug.

The presence of this drug on U.S. soil could mean a future of more drug problems to deal with. 

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