krokodil addiction

Krokodil Addiction: Abuse, Side Effects, Detox, Withdrawal, and Treatment

What is Krokodil (desomorphine)?

Krokodil is an illegal street drug that is made with desomorphine, which is an injectable form of morphine. An opioid drug that was first introduced in Russia in the early 2000s, krokodil is notorious for causing horrific side effects and is named for the discolored scaly skin it causes on users. This is likely due to the additives that are used to make it, such as hydrochloric acid, paint thinner, iodine, and gasoline, among others.1

Desomorphine was first used in 1935 to relieve pain and promote calmness before and after surgery. It is about ten times stronger than morphine and its effects are felt much faster. However, it’s no longer used today and is a Schedule I controlled substance in America because it has a high potential for misuse. In Russia, codeine is available without a prescription so drug users combine other additives with codeine to create their own version of the drug.

Krokodil is widely viewed as a cheaper substitute for heroin and it produces a similar strong euphoric high. It is most often abused via injection although it can also be consumed orally and the high lasts about two hours, which is shorter than the high from heroin. Many krokodil users will inject repeatedly to avoid withdrawal symptoms and maintain their high. As a result, they typically become addicted very quickly.

Because it is cheap and easy to make, krokodil has become a widely abused drug despite the devastating and life-threatening consequences of abuse. In fact, the average krokodil user only lives about two or three years after they start using it.2

Slang for Krokodil

The following terms are street names or slang for Krokodil:

  • Krocodil
  • Krok
  • Croc
  • Alligator drug

How Common Is Krokodil Addiction and Abuse?

About 1 million people in Russia use krokodil and use of the drug has also been reported in Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Germany, and Norway.3 While it is not commonly abused in America, reports of krokodil popped up in 2013 in Phoenix, Arizona. Since then, krokodil use has also been reported in Illinois and Oklahoma. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is still skeptical that krokodil has crossed U.S. borders.4

Krokodil abuse may often go unreported as heroin users may accidentally buy some of it under the assumption that they are buying heroin. It is less likely to be manufactured in America as regularly as it is in Russia because codeine is a controlled substance in America and requires a prescription or over-the-counter purchase through a pharmacist.

How Addictive is Krokodil?

Krokodil is highly addictive and can cause physical dependence in a very short time. This is largely due to its ability to cause a powerful high that only lasts a few hours. The high’s short duration motivates users to rapidly inject multiple times to extend the high and avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Why Do People Use Krokodil?

Krokodil is cheaper than heroin and it’s very easy to make at home, so people who are looking for a quick high often abuse this drug despite its terrible side effects. It’s also highly addictive so once a person has developed a physical dependence, they may feel like they need it to feel normal or to prevent withdrawal symptoms.

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What is Krokodil Made Of?

People typically use codeine as the base for krokodil but they may also use other opioids. The drug is often “cooked” with other chemicals and additives like:

  • Paint thinner
  • Gasoline
  • The red tips from matches
  • Hydrochloric acid
  • Iodine
  • Lighter fluid5

Often, these chemicals are not entirely cooked from the drug and when they are injected or consumed, they can cause horrible and life-threatening side effects.

What Are the Side Effects of Krokodil Abuse?

Short-term effects of krokodil abuse include:

  • Slow and shallow breathing
  • Pain and swelling at the injection site

Long-term effects of krokodil abuse may include:

  • Blood clots
  • Swollen veins
  • Severe tissue damage
  • Skin and muscle infections (this is what causes the black/green scaly skin around injection sites)
  • Sleeplessness and exhaustion
  • Memory loss
  • Bone damage
  • Speech problems
  • Gangrene
  • Physical and psychological dependence
  • Death5

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Krokodil Addiction and Abuse?

People who abuse opioid drugs or buy opioids online may be more likely to develop krokodil addiction. Signs of krokodil addiction may include:

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Being unable to stop using krokodil
  • Continuing to use krokodil despite the negative physical and psychological effects
  • Isolating from friends and family
  • Lying about krokodil use
  • Spending a lot of time thinking about how to get more krokodil, when you’ll use it, and how good you’ll feel while using
  • Losing interest in hobbies and regular activities6

What Are Krokodil Withdrawal Symptoms?

Krokodil withdrawal symptoms are often similar to morphine withdrawal symptoms and may include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Increased tearing
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goosebumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Although these withdrawal symptoms are extremely uncomfortable, they are not life-threatening. However, the discomfort can be enough to keep someone trapped in a lifestyle of addiction just to avoid them.

If you’re suffering from krokodil withdrawal symptoms due to your addiction, a medically-assisted detox program can help you overcome your physical dependence and move forward with your life. A krokodil detox program provides medical and clinical care for krokodil withdrawal symptoms so you can feel safe, comfortable, and cared for. It also helps prevent relapse by providing professional support in a clinical environment.

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Treatment for Krokodil Addiction

After krokodil detox, people who have a history of krokodil abuse and opioid abuse may find it very helpful to enroll in a drug rehab program. Long-term addiction treatment that involves rehab can help individuals address the underlying causes of their addictive behaviors, establish a firm foundation in sobriety, and develop important life skills that will help them stay sober long-term.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) confirms that long-term addiction treatment that lasts at least 90 days provides individuals with the highest likelihood of sustained sobriety.7 In addition, continuing krokodil treatment for an extended amount of time reduces the risk of relapse.

If you’re considering krokodil drug rehab, you can expect to work closely with addiction treatment professionals and sober peers to achieve the following objectives:

These addiction treatment objectives are achieved with several different types of evidence-based treatment methods like cognitive behavioral therapy, educational lectures, family therapy, and peer support, among other specialized therapies.

Inpatient Drug Rehab vs. Outpatient Drug Rehab for Krokodil Addiction

Krokodil rehab can take on many different forms, depending on your treatment needs, financial ability, and resources available near you. Two of the most common types of drug rehab programs are inpatient rehab programs and outpatient rehab programs. If you’re searching for krokodil rehab, here’s a quick comparison of these two types of programs. An addiction treatment professional can help you determine which type is right for you.

In residential rehab, clients: Stay at the rehab center throughout the duration of treatment Follow a structured schedule Have daily counseling sessions Participate in various types of therapies and recovery-focused group activitiesIn outpatient rehab, clients: Attend a series of group outpatient sessions while they live at home Complete homework assignments on their own at home Maintain obligations to family, employers, or education while completing treatment

In most instances, residential krokodil rehab is ideal for people who have severe or long-lasting addiction(s), but anyone can attend. On the other hand, outpatient krokodil rehab may be ideal for someone who needs to continue working, going to school, or living at home while they complete rehab and who has less complex treatment needs.

The cost of an inpatient or outpatient drug rehab program varies greatly depending on factors like the type of facility, its amenities, location, krokodil treatment services offered, and more. However, there are many different ways to pay for krokodil rehab, such as:

Continued Care Options for Krokodil Addiction Treatment

After krokodil rehab, people may also choose to continue their treatment with ongoing care options like a sober living program or aftercare program. These types of krokodil treatment programs can provide essential support in a life of recovery and help prevent relapse.

Sober Living Programs

A sober living program acts as a bridge between formal krokodil treatment programs and independent sober life. Often, it takes time to adjust to a sober lifestyle after rehab and most people need all the help and support they can get, especially as they start over with a new home, new employment, new relationships, and more.

Early sobriety can be a challenging time but sober living homes offer a safe, supportive, and sober living environment to foster lasting, genuine change. Many sober living homes also offer recovery support services such as:

  • Tiered recovery programming
  • Peer monitoring programs
  • Regular drug and alcohol testing
  • Educational planning
  • Employment assistance
  • Volunteer placement

Depending on the type of sober living home, its location, amenities, and recovery support services offered, the cost of sober living will vary but it often collected monthly.

Aftercare Programs

Aftercare programs are designed for alumni of rehab programs who are seeking extra support as they live independent, sober lives. Aftercare treatment consists of a series of outpatient group therapy meetings where sober individuals can come together and talk about issues related to addiction recovery.

Aftercare group is a great opportunity to form healthy relationships, expand communication skills, share personal struggles, and encourage others in their pursuit of sobriety.

Krokodil addiction and the side effects that come with it are horrific and life-threatening, but there is a way out and you can recover with the right support. Call (512) 887-5034 to speak with a Nova Recovery Center representative today to learn more about your krokodil treatment options, including krokodil detox, rehab, and recovery support services.


  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/krokodil-desomorphine
  2. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1186%2Fs12954-016-0105-2.pdf
  3. https://www.drugs.com/illicit/krokodil.html
  4. https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/desomorphine.pdf
  5. https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-06-krokodil-russian-flesh-eating-drug-rare.html
  6. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/signs-of-drug-addiction
  7. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment

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