What Is Krokodil?

Table of Contents


Krokodil (desomorphine), is a powerful opioid made from codeine. This injectable drug is nicknamed krokodil for the scaly and discolored skin of those who use this deadly substance. In the United States, Krokodil is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning that it’s considered to have a high potential for abuse with no recognized medical use.

This guide addresses the following issues:

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  • What is krokodil?
  • What is in krokodil?
  • Is there effective krokodil drug treatment?

Krokodil Drug

Krokodil – crocodile in Russian – is known by various names and spellings, including:

  • Krocodil
  • Krok
  • Croc
  • Alligator drug

Originating in Russia in the early 2000s, this drug involves converting codeine into desomorphine and mixing it with substances like hydrochloric acid, paint thinner, iodine, gasoline, lighter fluid, and red phosphorus. These toxic additives contribute to the drug’s infamous and damaging effects.

Krokodil abuse is most prevalent in Russia and Ukraine, although there have been instances of its use and associated adverse outcomes reported in the United States.

Desomorphine was synthesized in the 1930s as a potent painkiller for trauma-induced pain, offering stronger relief than morphine, a shorter action duration, and fewer side effects like nausea. It was utilized by doctors for its sedative properties before and after surgeries. It’s medical use has been discontinued, though, and desomorphine is now a Schedule I drug in the United States, indicating that it’s prone to high abuse with no sanctioned medical application.

In Russia, codeine tablets can be purchased without a prescription, making them a cheap and accessible ingredient for creating krokodil. This homemade version of the drug serves as a low-cost alternative to heroin for some people.

Is Krokodil Addictive?

The risk of addiction is especially high with krokodil due to its potent opioid effects and brief duration of action. Krokodil addicts might find themselves engaged in prolonged binges, leading to sleep deprivation, exhaustion, memory issues, and speech difficulties. The unpredictable strength of krokodil, especially with variations in homemade concoctions, further elevates the danger of overdosing.

DEA (United States Drug Enforcement Administration) reports that in cases where desomorphine was administered repeatedly at short intervals to individuals experiencing severe pain from cancer, there was a significant risk of developing an addiction.

A less apparent hazard of krokodil usage is the potential for people suffering from gangrene and other serious side effects to postpone seeking vital medical care out of fear of legal repercussions. Beyond this, the compulsion to continue using krokodil to avoid withdrawal symptoms may also deter individuals from pursuing necessary treatment options.

image representing krokodil in america

Krokodil in America

Until September 2013, there were hardly any instances of krokodil use reported in the U.S. This changed when a poison control center in Phoenix, Arizona, started receiving questions about the substance. Following this, more reports emerged from Illinois and Oklahoma.

Despite these reports, though, DEA mentioned in July 2019 that they have not detected any presence of krokodil in their samples since 2004.

Effects of Krokodil

The most notorious of krokodil side effects is the development of green and black scaly skin, appearing soon after injection. Tissue damage associated with krokodil skin can be severe and irreversible, reaching down to the bone, even after short-term use. Other krokodil drug effects may include:

  • Skin necrosis: People often experience significant swelling and pain at the injection site, followed by skin discoloration and scaling, leading to large areas of dead tissue due to skin necrosis. The damage is attributed to the corrosive additives used in creating the drug, combined with the lack of purification before injection, causing immediate skin irritation.
  • Muscle and cartilage damage: The situation can escalate to serious damage to muscles and cartilage, with the skin ulcerating further to reveal the underlying bone. Being significantly more potent than morphine, the analgesic properties of krokodil may lead some people to neglect these side effects, delaying treatment until the damage becomes extensive, including the onset of gangrene.
  • Blood vessel damage: The drug can also harm blood vessels, hindering the supply of blood to tissues and potentially leading to gangrene and thrombophlebitis (inflamed veins caused by blood clots.
  • Bone damage: There are reports of bone infections and bone death (osteonecrosis) away from the injection sites. Bacteria can infect the bone via wounds to deep tissue, and bone death occurs when the bone’s blood supply is cut off or reduced, sometimes requiring amputation.

Beyond this, Krokodil use is linked to a host of other severe health issues, including pneumonia, meningitis, sepsis (blood poisoning), kidney failure, liver damage, brain damage, drug overdose, and even death.

Addiction to Krokodil Drug Treatment

Treating krokodil addiction, given its devastating effects on the body and mind, requires comprehensive and specialized care.  

Medical detoxification

The first step in treating krokodil addiction is often medical detoxification, during which medical professionals monitor and manage the withdrawal symptoms as the drug leaves the body. This process ensures the safety and comfort of the person undergoing detox.

Behavioral therapies

Behavioral therapy like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and contingency management are effective for addressing the psychological aspects of addiction. These therapies help people identify and change unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors associated with drug use, develop coping skills to manage cravings and triggers, and build motivation for recovery.


Medications may be indicated as part of an integrated treatment plan for krokodil addiction. These medications can help mitigate cravings, reduce withdrawal symptoms, and stabilize mood. That said, there are currently no specific medications approved for the treatment of krokodil addiction, so treatment may focus on managing symptoms and addressing co-occurring mental health conditions.

Holistic interventions

Holistic therapies like yoga, meditation, art therapy, and acupuncture can complement traditional addiction treatment approaches by promoting relaxation, stress reduction, and overall well-being. These therapies address the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of recovery and can enhance the effectiveness of treatment.

Support groups

Participation in peer support groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and SMART Recovery, can provide encouragement and peer support during the recovery process. These groups offer a sense of community, understanding, and accountability, which can be instrumental in maintaining sobriety and preventing relapse.

Aftercare planning

Planning for aftercare is a core component of long-term recovery from krokodil addiction. This may involve ongoing therapy, participation in support groups, vocational training, education, and housing assistance. Aftercare helps individuals transition back into daily life while providing ongoing support and resources to maintain sobriety.

Treating addiction to krokodil requires a multidisciplinary approach that addresses the physical, psychological, and social factors underlying addiction. By combining medical detoxification, behavioral therapies, pharmacotherapy, support groups, holistic therapies, and aftercare planning, individuals struggling with krokodil addiction can achieve lasting recovery and rebuild their lives.

luxury bedroom at california detox representing krokodil drug treatment

Get Treatment for Krokodil Addiction at California Detox

If you have been abusing deadly drugs like Krokodil, fentanyl, or xylazine, we can help you fight back at California Detox.

Begin your recovery with medical supervision during detox. This mitigates the complications that could derail your early efforts. After a week or so, you will be ready to move into ongoing treatment at our luxury facility in Laguna Beach, California.

The unique nature of all addictions means that our treatment programs reflect this with targeted interventions. Therapies offered include:

Call California Detox at 949.694.8305 and engage with effective Krokodil drug treatment.


Krokodil is a street name for desomorphine, a synthetic opioid drug known for its fast-acting and highly addictive properties, often used as a cheaper substitute for heroin.
The use of Krokodil can lead to severe health consequences, including tissue damage, infection, and gangrene, often resulting in amputations or life-threatening complications.


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