A new designer drug is sending scores of Russians into addiction centres. Krokodil, or crocodile, is an ugly cousin of morphine and contains codeine, gasoline, and paint thinner.
The dangerous drug is called crocodile due to its side effects: an addict's skin turns greenish and scaly, similar to a crocodile's. Blood vessels burst and the surrounding tissue dies, often resulting in amputation, a Time report writes.
Krokodil has become hugely popular in Russia. A few hundred thousand and a million people, according to various official estimates, were injecting the drug into their veins in Russia, "so far the only country in the world to see the drug grow into an epidemic," Time adds.
Since 2009, the amount of krokodil seized in Russia has increased 23-fold, according to the head of the Federal Drug Control Service, Viktor Ivanov. In the first three months of this year alone, the service says, it confiscated 65 million doses.
It's made mainly from codeine, an off-the-counter painkiller, but it's often mixed with gasoline, paint thinner, hydrochloric acid, iodine and red phosphorous. The high lasts for about 90 minutes and it can take addicts around an hour to cook it.
A former addict told Time she has seen krokodil users killed by pneumonia, blood poisoning, meningitis and burst heart arteries.
Although Russia has been blindsided by recent drug addiction rates, the government seems poised to take a hardline stance against pushers. It recently said drug dealers should be ''treated like serial killers'' and may be forced to work at labour camps. "President Dmitry Medvedev said drug abuse was cutting up to 3 percentage points off economic growth," the Sydney Morning Herald reports.