Designer drugs, now that’s a novel idea…until you find out your fun has been discounted. Next time you’re at Le Bain, Westgay, or some other trendy club in NYC, look around. You might see a cheap form of heroin floating around the room. This hush hush drug is called krokodil, the street name for a synthetic drug known as Desomorphine.
My first brush with krokodil came about three years ago, in Central Asia. I was working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kazakhstan and stumbled upon my students buying krokodil in the seedy part of the bazaar. They were huddled around the gypsy cabs toward the back and trading their parent’s fermented camel milk for small hits. One of them smiled at me with glazed over eyes and a syringe dangling from his forearm.
The thing about krokodil is that it wasn’t a new fad that just happened to pop up when I came to work in this post-nomadic wasteland; this drug has actually been around for a little over a decade in Siberia, where it is still widely used as a cheap alternative to heroin.
Krokodil has been tenuously reported on in some pseudo-informative media outlets, like Vice, but since the real deal is now here stateside…it won’t be long before we start hearing about cases of it popping up on the local news. The best way to describe it is like this: krokodil is to post-soviet nations what crack cocaine is to the U.S.
Now that it’s been making the rounds in American nightclubs, Krokodil has been slowly making a name for itself as a party drug. Part of the popularity comes from not having to put it directly into the veins (it can be injected in any part of the skin and still be absorbed), which leads to no track marks. It also isn’t hard to produce, which makes it cheap (about 10% of the cost of tar heroin).
But the trade off for the come up is a toxic addiction. It may look faboosh to inject this while italo disco is playing in the background of your nightlife hot spot, but there is a side effect festering below. Using krokodil causes nasty residual outcomes on the body, including turning the skin to a green and scaly complexion (literally like a crocodile), gangrene, and eventually death within two to three years. For those that mange to survive, brain damage and physical deformities can also occur. You might think someone looks super Dior holding their reptile skin clutch while injecting krokodil until you come closer and see its actual their skin that is flaking off, like a modern leper.