Addiction Prevention Substance Abuse Synthetic Drugs

Taking a Look at Krokodil–The Flesh-Eating Street Drug

We’ve done several blogs on the street drugs Molly, K2 and Spice, and now it’s time to take a look at Krokodil. Krokodil is a homemade heroin substitute birthed in a rural part of Russia. Its primary ingredient is desomorphine – a morphine derivative once used in Switzerland in the 30s under the brand name Permonid because of its effectiveness and reputation for being short-acting with a quick onset–it’s around 8-10 times more potent than morphine. The street use is far different and much more sinister.


Krokodil is manufactured from what is purported to be a simple synthesis of codeine combined with ingredients such as paint thinner, iodine, and red phosphorus (among other things).  Toxic city! And it’s aptly named Krokodil because its use can turn your skin black, green and/or scaly—like a crocodile. David DiSalvo at Forbes wrote that it is “Essentially a corrosive acid with opiate effects, it (sic) destroys body tissue the way battery acid eats through plastic, opening large sores that can go all the way to the bone.”  Russia is the largest consumer of heroin in the world, and Krokodil is its street-ready replacement since  heroin has become harder and harder to obtain. The extreme poverty in rural Russia and desperation for escape is fueling a dangerous addiction.


So far, krokodil isn’t a real threat to the US, where heroin and other street drugs are easy to come by. However, when two patients in Ohio claimed to be using the drug, and were showing signs they were suffering from the consequences of krokodil use, Dany Thekkemuriyil and Unnikrishnan Pillai, both physicians at SSM St. Mary’s Health Center in Richmond Heights, Mo, reported their findings to the American Journal of Medicine. Right now, the main issue with this particular synthetic drug relies on its prevalence in other countries.  Purportedly, the cases in the US that were initially believed to be krokodil have not been confirmed and none tested positively for desomorphane. What we are especially seeing is the International effects of a dangerous street drug borne out of poverty and hosted by severe addiction and despair. It is cause for concern from a global standpoint. This is also a great reminder to remain knowledgeable about what drugs are out there, not to encourage panic, but to arm ourselves with clearer understanding and awareness. The truth is, we need to be more aware of drug use, carry out proper disposal of medications after they are no longer needed, and begin using healthier resources to manage our stress and discomfort. There’s no need to start playing scientist to get away from our feelings.


Addiction Adolescence Parenting Synthetic Drugs

Smiles: The Dark Side of a Joyful Symbol

Smiles, yet another designer drug to hit the US seems to be just as deadly as the other synthetic drugs we are more familiar with. According to the DEA, this drug is “a synthetic drug abused for its hallucinogenic effects,” and has “been encountered in a number of states by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.”  Still, the findings regarding this substance are so preliminary, all we really have to refer to are user stories on YouTube, and that’s not an ideal source. The popularity of drugs like Smiles, K2, Spice, and Bath Salts is partly due to the ease of their availability and their inexpensive price tag. They are easily purchased online, in liquor stores, and particularly in states that haven’t elicited new, prohibitive laws regarding these synthetic drugs. What’s troublesome is these drugs are typically created and recreated faster than the FDA can process requests to ban them. Often times, it’s a sudden increase in ER visits by patients suffering similarly which alerts professionals of a new drug is on the scene.

What is Smiles? 

We don’t know much, but we do know that 2C-1 aka Smiles is an amphetamine/hallucinogen whose effects have been compared to a combination of LSD and MDMA. Some even say it’s similar to PCP.  2C-1 (Smiles) was initially popular in Europe, emerging onto their party scene in 2003. Smiles is classified as aphenethylamines—essentially amphetamines but with an additional chemical compound added which change its effects. Instead of the increased heart rate and feeling of speediness so commonly associated with amphetamine use, the effect of 2c-1 is more euphoric and psychedelic, again more in line with that found in psychedelics.  Like most of these synthetic drugs,  they are commonly manufactured in illegal labs, which make it terribly difficult to regulate.

What population is using Smiles?

The same population that uses this elicit drug is the same one that uses drugs like Ecstasy, Spice, Bath Salts, K2, and other club drugs: high-school and college students and other young adults that frequent party and club settings. Like the others, Smiles is easy to get, cheap, and not always easy to detect in drug tests. Because the evolution of these synthetic drugs is so fast, parents, teachers, mental health and law enforcement professionals may be caught off guard. Awareness is going to be your best defense.

So, what can you do?

  • Be aware of your young adults’ friends and sudden changes in those social circles.
  • Do you really know where your kids go when they “hang out”? Sudden secrecy (more than the usual we expect from adolescents) should raise a red flag. Instead of approaching your concern with anger, show concern with an open heart. Try and remember how YOU felt as a teen.
  • Look into your teens’ eyes: Are the pupils dilated (huge)?  Are they pinpoints?
  • Watch for sudden changes in grades or attendance.
  • Gather information from viable, legitimate sources (NIDA, DEA)
  • Get some support for yourself: therapy, support groups, et cetera.
  • Practice self-care. It’s harder to care for others when you are not taken care of.

These drugs are serious. They are unknown in many ways, and that fact alone makes them deadly. Stay tuned; I’m sure there will be more information to follow. In the meantime, be as transparent as you can be with your kids. Chances are, if they feel emotionally safe enough to confide in you and talk to you in general, they are less likely to hide the important things and travel along a path of self-destruction.

Addiction Prevention Synthetic Drugs

Synthetic Drugs: Elusive and Troubling

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One thing’s for sure: teens are curious. And we’d be remiss in forgetting their quintessential stubbornness and hints of recklessness, which, of course, feeds their curiosity. Now with the surge of synthetic drugs on the market, coupled with the fact that most parents don’t know much about them, the curiosity factor is heightened. Sure, parents can wax poetic about the drugs of their time: marijuana, methamphetamines, psychedelics, cocaine, and pills. But when it comes to synthetic drugs like K2 or Spice or the mythos of Bath Salts, parents and teachers alike are as baffled as the authorities.

We’ve been writing about synthetic drugs over the past two years, understanding the heat has been on to place bans on these drugs across the country. The difficulty has been the FDA is up against fluctuating drug formulas and irregular chemical components in the drugs themselves, making regulation difficult and elusive. Finally, on July 9, 2012, President Obama signed legislation banning synthetic drugs. The law bans any known chemicals used to make K2, Spice, and bath salts. The trick will be for the FDA to stay one or two steps ahead of the synthetic chemists, because as one formula is banned, a new one is cooking in someone’s garage.

However, it’s not just the FDA that to needs to stay a step ahead of synthetic drugs; it’s parents as well. Synthetic drugs are easily concealed and available everywhere from online sources to the local convenient store. The reality is, some of these chemicals are so new, they’re off the radar entirely and which increases user vulnerability. What may seem like a fun party idea to an adolescent,  synthetic drug use can easily ricochet into a psychotic episode and a visit to the ER. This is serious. Recently, the National Institute on Drug Abuse released information which indicated one in nine high-school kids had used synthetic drugs.  Talk to your kids, and stay informed–not only regarding their lives, but the social minefields they have to navigate on a regular basis.

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