Rumors that a flesh eating, highly addictive drug has made it way into Ohio has local law enforcement and health officials on high alert.
“If it gets a foothold in our community we want to find out exactly where it’s at, where its coming from and try to stop it immediately,” said Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer.
Reports of the arrival of the opiate krokodil started surfacing in the U.S. late this summer but none of the cases or more recent reports in Ohio have tested positive.
Krokodil is a cheap, yet more powerful heroin alternative that can be made at home using codeine and common household items such as lighter fluid or paint thinner. It was first reported in Russia more than 10 years ago.
“It’s bathtub heroin so to speak,” said Henry Spiller, the Central Ohio Poison Center director.
Reports of the presence or use of the illegal drug surfaced in Springfield and Columbus in the past few weeks.
Anna McClure, a chemical dependency coach with the Tree of Life Integrated Spinal Care & Wellness Center in Yellow Springs, said she heard about the drug from a patient who said a Springfield drug dealer offered it to him.
“We have to proactive and get the education out there to the public,” she said. “The doctors need to be aware of this.”
Although there have been no confirmed cases, the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association held a meeting last week to share information about the synthetic drug. About 20 representatives from the medical, law enforcement, public health and emergency medical professionals attended.
“We want to make sure we had emergency room people alerted, EMS alerted, law enforcement alerted,” said Bryan Bucklew, the GDAHA president and CEO.
Bucklew said one of the association’s main concerns is that codeine, the main ingredient in krokodil, is available over the counter in Canada which is about a three hour drive away on Interstate 75.
The Regional Agencies Narcotics and Gun Enforcement Task Force, which investigates drug-related crimes in the area including Montgomery, Clark and Miami counties, partnered with GDAHA and is circulating information to officers about how to identify the drug.
RANGE task force director Capt. Mike Brem of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said while there have been no confirmed cases of krokodil use in the area, the task force has been receiving a lot of information about the drug.
Brem said some hospitals may be misdiagnosing MRSA, a bacterial infection, which can have side effects or symptoms similar to krokodil.
“If you go in the hospital and say you’re a heroin user and you have a nasty infection around a spot where you were injecting heroin, they kind of freak out and think that it’s krokodil,” Brem said. “Before they confirm that it’s not, they put it out there that it might be a case of krokodil.”
Spiller said the poison center is seeing a similar trend.
“What we’re seeing is something we’ve seen before,” Spiller said. “… They’re using dirty needles or it can be contaminated heroin and they want to blame it on ‘Oh I got that bad krokodil.’ These cases occur, but it’s not because of some new nasty drug … That doesn’t mean there aren’t patients showing up in the ER with these large gaping wounds,” he said. “They are, but that is bacteria.”
About the drug
What: Desomorphine, more commonly known as krokodil, is a synthetic opiate made from codeine and common household items such as paint thinner or lighter fluid. Krokodil is a cheap alternative to heroin, but 10 times more powerful, according to health officials.
Origin: Krokodil is more common in Russia where use was reported as early as 2002.
Side effects: The highly addictive opiate can cause the user’s skin to become green, scaly and eventually eat away a person’s flesh to the point of exposing bone. Continued use can cause tissue damage which can lead to gangrene and result in limb amputation or death.
SOURCE: U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration