Drugs Like Krokodil Are the Result of Irresponsible ‘War on Drugs’ Policy

A flesh-rotting drug is eye-popping, but the real story should ask why we aren’t doing more to help impoverished addicts.

It’s easy to focus on the sensational aspects of the emerging krokodil “ flesh-rotting drug” story, but that ignores the most troubling issues around its origins, its popularity and its continued use. Krokodil is the street term for a home-made injectable opioid called desomorphine, a drug with effects similar to, but not as long lasting, as heroin. Desomorphine was first patented in the U.S. in 1932, but the homemade version has risen in popularity in Russia in recent years. Desperation often breeds tragedy and disaster, and Russia’s shoddy methods of treating their sick and addicted created the desperation that led to the disastrous popularity of krokodil.

In Russia, there is no methadone, drug treatment is totally inadequate, the street price of heroin can be very high and drug users are left to struggle with their addictions with no real therapeutic assistance. In that awful climate krokodil emerged and spread. Lacking any real alternatives, drug users attempt to manage their addictions themselves by creating a substitute for heroin. According to the World Health Organization, the Russian Federation has one of the highest rates of opiate use in the world. Millions of drug users throughout Russia urgently need access to evidence-based treatment and medication for their drug use, but are refused it, largely due to stigma and ignorance.

Earlier this year, the Pulitizer Center reported on the dire situation in Russia, describing it as “Death by Indifference.” But this is hardly breaking news. We’ve known about these failures a long time. Back in 2008, the New York Times reported on it, shining an important light on the urgent need for methadone access.

– Read the entire article at AlterNet.