Synthetic heroin use on rise in Russia

June 22, 2011 at 3:59 PM

MOSCOW, June 22 (UPI) -- Desperate Russian heroin addicts have turned to a synthetic drug that can be cooked up cheaply from over-the-counter medications.

Desomorphine, nicknamed krokodil, is horribly dangerous, the British newspaper The Independent reported. A drug-user named Sasha described a friend who refuses hospitalization because she wants to keep on using krokodil.

"Her flesh is falling off, and she can hardly move anymore," Sasha told the newspaper.

Withdrawal from krokodil is also longer, more painful and more difficult than from heroin.

Viktor Ivanov, head of the Russian Drug Control Agency, said sales of codeine-based medicines have skyrocketed in the past five years: "It's pretty obvious it's not because everyone has suddenly developed headaches."

Ivanov estimates that one in 20 of the 2 million drug abusers in Russia use krokodil and other home-made preparations. Experts say its a combination of price and of the crackdown on the heroin traffic from Afghanistan.

Authorities have been unwilling to ban the sale of the medications that serve as krokodil's ingredients or even to make them prescription-only.

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