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A flesh-eating drug called "Krokodil" (pronounced crocodile) has grabbed media attention in the United States recently as more and more suspected cases are being reported throughout the country.
The drug has been popular in Russia and the Ukraine for years and has now crossed over into the U.S. but has remained under the radar of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)...until recently.
Krokodil, also known as desomorphine, is an opiate in the heroin family. It is called Krokodil because one of the symptoms it causes in users are scale-like skin lesions similar to the scales of a crocodile.
Lynn Riemer, a substance abuse expert and president of ACT on Drugs has published details about the increasingly popular substance, including the effects it has on users.
"Desomorphine users suffer from an acute deterioration in their general health...their circulation is so affected that their limbs gradually wither and die...non-healing ulcers appear on the body and a personally literally rots alive," Riemer wrote in her latest handout called "Trends in Substance Abuse."
According to Riemer, Krokodil produces severe tissue damage and gangrene and long-time users may require limb amputations. Additionally, the amount of tissue damage is so high that addicts' life expectancy is said to be as low as two-to-three years.
The Daily Mail recently reported on the drug's effect on two sisters from Illinois, one of a handful of states where cases are being recognized. According to the report, Amber and Angie Neitzel of Joliet, Ill., who say they have been using the drug for over a year, describe in detail the toll it has taken on their lives.
Amber, 26, told the Daily Mail that she and her sister had thought Krokodil was just regular heroin, but said "it was actually better because it was cheap and...much, much stronger than normal dope."
"But it didn't take long before we both started to get these horrible, deep sores on our bodies," Amber said. "You can get marks and bleeding from shooting up heroin, but nothing like this. They are deep holes and the skin is just rotting away. It's hard to describe how revolting they are."
The mother-of-two maintains that anyone who thinks that Krokodil use isn't widespread is sorely mistaken. She claims to know of seven other people who have gotten sick from it in her hometown alone.
"Something needs to be done because as long as dope is cheap and strong, addicts will use it no matter what the cost to their bodies and this stuff will spread," Amber said.
According to Firehouse.com, cases of Krokodil use have been identified in Arizona, Utah and Illinois. Suspected cases of the drug are also being investigated by doctors in Colorado and Oklahoma.
Huffington Post reports that on Oct. 10, DEA spokeswoman Dawn Dearden told reporters that the agency was not actively investigating any cases of Krokodil use. However, the following day Special Agent-in-Charge of the DEA's Chicago Field Division, Jack Riley, made the following statement:
"The DEA is very concerned about the recent news that several patients who were treated at Presence St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet had symptoms consistent with the use of the drug Krokodil. Our agents and task force officers are on the street canvassing the area, and trying to track down any leads. We want to be pro-active and get out ahead of the curve on this, but until we can get our hands on the drugs and the people trafficking in it, we won't know the extent of what we're dealing with. What we do know is if this is Krokodil, it is extremely dangerous and we're doing everything within our authority to stop it."