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Did OK Have First US Krokodil Death?

On the scale of nasty, the newest drug to emerge, krokodil, ranks as high or higher than methamphetamine and heroin. So researchers and law enforcement have been keeping a close eye on whether or not this drug, popular in Russia, will emerge in the US. It now appears that the first US death from it may have happened last year in Oklahoma.

The name, krokodil is the Russian spelling of crocodile, and the drug gets the name because it can cause a green, scaly skin condition at injections sites. With further use, the tissue actually erodes away, producing a lesion that looks like a crocodile has taken a bite out of the addict. But the “bite of the krokodil” isn’t diagnostic – any injectable drug, improperly prepared, can produce infection and tissue damage. And the metabolites that show up at autopsy aren’t specific to krokodil either. That makes it hard for pathologists to say for sure that krokodil was the causative agent. Instead, they will list sepsis (a whole body infection) or opioid overdose (krokodil is chemically derived from codeine).

With the difficulties in pinning a death to krokodil, medical staff has to rely on reports from addicts or others who knew what the addict took. Since the drug is used as a cheap, homemade replacement for heroin, and is highly illegal, asking for the information is tantamount to asking for a confession to a crime.

According to news reports, “The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics is investigating the deaths of two Oklahoma men who are linked to the drug, KSWO reported. One of those men is 33-year-old Justin McGree, who died last year. McGee’s friend Chelle Fancher said McGee had taken Krokodil.”

The break in the year-old case is the admission that krokodil was being used.

More recently, the drug has popped up in three other states, and no further deaths have been reported in Oklahoma.


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