About a decade ago, Russian doctors began to notice strange wounds on the bodies of some drug addicts—patches of flesh turning dark and scaly, like a crocodile’s—in the hospitals of Siberia and the Russian Far East. It didn’t take them long to discover the cause: the patients had begun injecting a new drug they called, predictably, “krokodil.” (Some accounts suggest the name was derived from one of the drug’s precursor chemicals, alpha-chlorocodide.) Videos showing the effects of the “flesh-eating” drug—christened desomorphine when it was invented for medical use in 1932—quickly went viral online. There are now alarming stories that the monster could be at large in the U.S.
American drug-enforcement officials say fears of an imminent krokodil epidemic are overblown. But it’s hard not to be frightened of a drug that leaves a reptilian mark on its victims. Especially when it is so easy to make: an addict…
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