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What are the signs and symptoms of Krokodil abuse?

Krokodil aka Desomorphine, aka Permonid, is an injectable drug of abuse. The drug Desomorphine was developed in 1932, and used for legitimate medical purposes in Switzerland and Russia until 1981. Desomorphine can also be synthesized from codeine treated with iodine and red phosphorous. This is a crude process which someone with minimal skill can conduct. Injection can result in tissue necrosis, which is tissue death, possibly leading to amputation. It is used primarily in Russia as a substitute for Heroin. Heroin is difficult to access in Russia, but Codeine, which is a much weaker drug, is readily available. When treated with easily acquired but dangerous chemicals such as iodine (disinfectant), and red phosphorous (from matches) codeine becomes many times more potent than morphine. However, the sloppy alteration process produces a drug containing caustic and acidic chemical leftovers, which damage living tissue when injected.

What are the effects of Krokodil on the user?

Krokodil is primarily used by IV (Intravenous) injection, though it can also be snorted. Krokodil produces a high similar to heroin and other opiates, or opium derived drugs, but it last very briefly, and tends to not produce nausea, making it popular with users. The effects are an initial orgasmic rush, followed by several hours of a sleepy, warm, peaceful feeling. The user’s pupils will contract to pinpoints and breathing will become shallow. The user will nod- their head will droop and their eyes will close, then they will briefly rouse with a start. This will repeat for the hours the Krokodil lasts. 

Short-term and long-term risks of using Krokodil

When Krokodil is injected, it will produce a dry, scaly patch of skin at the injection site. This is due to tissue death from the caustic chemicals used in the manufacturing process. If use continues, the tissue death will spread, and skin, fat, and muscle will rot and fall off the bone. The limb will no longer function, and not be restorable. The appearance is grotesque, the rotting flesh will stink, and the effected limb will eventually need to be amputated to prevent the infection from spreading to vital organs.

Other risks of using Krokodil are inherent in the use of any injectable drug: 

  • Hepatitis C
  • Infection of the heart and membrane sack surrounding the heart


It is difficult to grasp why someone would choose to use a drug with such severe side effects. An understanding of addict psychology may provide insight. Drug addicts are utterly fearless about what they put into their bodies. They also engage in fantasy thinking which disregards cause and effect. They believe that the worst effects of a drug won’t happen to them because of their inherent qualities. E.g., I’m too strong; I’m too smart, and so on. This presumes they even have knowledge of th effects, and no misinformation. Denial, a stubborn refusal to acknowledge reality is also a factor. The reality is Krokodil is a drug which can lead to not only addiction, but disfigurement, amputation, and premature and painful death. It is best avoided.