The Krokodil drug effects are terrifying and more than skin deep.

The krokodil drug’s flesh-eating effects exploded into public awareness after VICE published a 25-minute documentary in 2012. As of this writing, the viral video now boasts nearly 16 million views. The VICE media team documented the impact of this substance on addicts in Russia. Dubbed the “zombie drug,” it took down addicts left and right.

It doesn’t actually turn users into zombies, but the krokodil effects still send chills down your spine. You can easily find images of the physical results of krokodil use. The drug’s name, Russian for crocodile, came from its impact on a user’s body. It leaves their skin pockmarked and scabbed when it’s gentle; it completely decays their skin when it’s at its worst.

What exactly is the krokodil drug, and why do people risk using it? Some call it the “drug that eats junkies.” Others refer to it as “Russia’s deadliest designer drug.” Please continue reading to learn more about this disastrous drug and how it shocked the world.


Krokodil made its way into the streets as a cheaper alternative to heroin. Though heroin isn’t the most expensive drug available, a heavy opiate habit quickly becomes costly. The cheap cost of production for the zombie drug keeps prices on the streets even lower.

The krokodil drug is made from a mixture of dangerous and harmful chemicals, meant to replicate the prescription opioid desomorphine. Manufacturers create batches of the krokodil drug from most inexpensive items, including:

  • Codeine
  • Iodine
  • Gasoline
  • Hydrochloric acid
  • Paint thinner
  • Red phosphorous (scraped from the striker side of matchboxes)

The consistency and side effects of krokodil mimic that of heroin. It’s meant to be cooked down to a clear, yellow liquid and injected intravenously. Once someone injects the krokodil drug, waves of euphoria, relaxation, and calm wash over them. The relaxing krokodil effects are short-lived, though, and they need more soon after.


Doctors in Siberia learned of krokodil in the early 2000s when users arrived at clinics with unfamiliar signs. Scaly, dark patches plagued their skin. Some showed up with parts decayed and missing. They soon realized the effects were from these people injecting homemade desomorphine.

The toxic ingredients used to make this knock-off desomorphine wreak havoc on those who use it. At first, they cause blood vessels to burst and leave small sores or lesions around the injection site. These sores become infected when left uncared for, and the infection kills the skin surrounding the area.

As users’ veins and vessels can’t hold up to the chemical concoction, they move to other sites. This causes multiple infections in various areas that continually break down their body and immune system. They’re essentially injecting an opiate-imitating corrosive acid.

The average user only lives for two years following their first shot of the krokodil drug. While heroin and fentanyl contribute to overwhelming overdose rates, krokodil eats addicts alive before killing them. Their existence during those two years is terribly painful with effects such as:

  • Increasing numbers of infections at injection sites
  • Infected blood vessels
  • Scaly patches of skin left behind if an infection heals
  • Blood poisoning
  • Ulcers
  • Gangrene
  • Possible amputation of infected limbs
  • Loss of motor skills
  • Impairment of speech or speech impediments
  • Loss of memory
Krokodil drug effects
Krokodil Drug Effects: What it Does to Your Body

The drug shocked the world when it was brought to light in the public eye. Learn more about the alarming short-term and long-term krokodil drug effects.

More info


Panic swept over parents across the United States after VICE published their mini-documentary. Misinformed news articles filled Facebook newsfeeds and spread false ideas about the krokodil drug. Many thought it crossed over into the streets of cities in America, but those cases are largely unconfirmed.

The few confirmed cases still seem to be mostly isolated incidents. One man in Missouri arrived at an emergency room with rotting flesh on his thighs. Doctors noted the man also lost a finger as a result of using homemade desomorphine.

He appeared to be the first documented instance of the Krokodile drug effects in America. Additional cases in Ohio, Arizona, Utah, and Illinois also held krokodil as the main suspect. Despite alarming Krokodile effects on some substance users in Russia, it never took hold in America. At least not to the extent that news outlets claimed.


The prescription opioid epidemic shows no signs of stopping in the United States. Painkiller habits are expensive and challenging to maintain due to prescription restrictions. Suddenly heroin becomes an available and more affordable alternative to some.

Most addicts never set out to become an addict. Sometimes it starts with an unexpected dependence on painkillers. Others want to try out a drug “just one time.” Not everyone develops an addiction, but those who do never want to be a drug addict.

If you found yourself trapped in the cage of addiction, there is a way out. It might not seem like you there is a way to escape, but addiction treatment can help. Hawaii Island Recovery provides treatment to help you live a life free from the Krokodil drug’s effects on the body and mind. Call us today at 866-491-8009 to see what we can do!