Desomorphine, known by the street name krokodil, is an opioid derivative of codeine. Like heroin and other opioids, it has a sedative and analgesic effect and is highly addictive. Those who inject these caustic agents into their veins can develop extreme skin ulcerations, infections, and gangrene — a discolored (green, grey, black) scale-like skin that resembles a crocodile, hence the street name “krokodil”. Krokodil is also called “Russian Magic”, referring to its short duration of opioid intoxication (euphoria).
Krokodil is reported to contain desomorphine, a synthetic morphine analogue synthesized in the 1930s. Due to illicit, home-based manufacturing it may contain other unknown ingredients. It is typically abused via the intravenous (IV) route. Desomorphine is a Schedule I substance in the U.S., meaning it has a high abuse potential with no accepted medical use.
Krokodil also refers to chlorocodide, a codeine derivative in the synthetic path to desomorphine. Homemade versions of the drug start with codeine, and can be ‘cooked’ similar to illicit methamphetamine (“meth”) production. Organic solvents such as gasoline, paint thinner, or lighter fluid, iodine, hydrochloric acid, and red phosphorus (from matches) are used in homemade synthesis. These dangerous chemicals are not always fully “cooked” out of the concoction when used to make illicit krokodil.
According to the DEA, in 2004 the National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) identified two samples of desomorphine. Since that time, no other exhibits have been identified as desomorphine to date. It had previously been used medically in Switzerland under the brand name Permonid.