Is Krokodil the Worst Drug in the World?

body with damage from krokodil

If there were some kind of competition for Worst Drug, krokodil would surely be in the running.

If you have not heard of this drug, is a home-cooked drug that starts with codeine extracted from headache pills. In Russia, where this drug originated, you can buy these pills over the counter. Even though the laws have changed in the last couple of years to try to prevent people from making this drug, you can still buy enough of the pills to cook up this drug. The reason you can still get this drug is that before the laws changed, some pharmacies made 25% of their money by selling this drug. When the laws limited the number of the pills you could buy, many pharmacies just cooperated with people who wanted to circumvent the law and get more pills than allowed.

Once an addicted person has the pills, he cooks out the codeine by using a mixture of toxic, harmful chemicals. Phosphorus (from the strike strips on boxes of matches), iodine, gasoline, paint thinner, hydrochloric acid all leave their traces in the dirty orange liquid that results from the cooking process. Excessive amounts of zinc, iron, and lead contaminate this mix. But the cravings for this drug are so intense that the addicts will inject it into their veins, despite the damage it quickly does.

The drug is strongly analgesic, meaning it kills pain. So as a person’s veins corrode and collapse, as his kidneys and liver become inflamed, as his nervous system breaks down, he will feel no pain. He will also feel no pain as his muscles die and his tissue gangrenes. He may require amputations to save his life. Various sources cite the life expectancy of the krokodil user to be one to two years.

Heroin Users Turn to Krokodil

People become addicted to krokodil when they can no longer afford heroin. It costs about a fifth of the price of heroin in Russia. According to the United Nations, about 1.8 million people in that country are injection drug users. And when they have lost nearly everything, it is cheaper to migrate to krokodil.

Cases of krokodil addiction and death have been reported in Germany and the Czech Republic. There have been reports of krokodil surfacing in the United States, but authorities such as the Drug Enforcement Administration have not confirmed that the serious physical damage seen in these cases were actually from krokodil. Medical officials in Oklahoma and Arizona stated that the drug that injured or killed several people was, in fact, the poisonous substance krokodil.

A thorough compilation of information on the drug has recently been published and is available here: This report notes that use is more common in parts of Russia that have eight-month-long cold seasons during which people are confined indoors. Some people drink and some turn to krokodil. If you need to know how awful drug addiction can get, this report will tell you.


Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.