Amber and Angie Neitzel say that they’ve used Krokodil for over a year, meaning the flesh-eating drug has been in the United States for far longer than feared.
The sisters, who live in Joliet, Illinois, said that they were taking the drug but didn’t know.
“I was doing this drug for a year and a half and didn’t even know it,” Amber told Patch. She said the gaping wounds on her and her sister could have been worse if they didn’t start getting treated at Joliet’s Presence St. Joseph Medical Center.
Amber has been doing heroin for 10 years, and has gone public about Krokodil to warn others.
“If you don’t got sores on the outside of your body, it don’t mean it don’t got a hold of you,” said the sisters’ mother, Kim, also a user. “It’s going after your organs.”
The first cases of the flesh-eating drug, known medically as desomorphine, were believed to have been reported in September.
But the Neitzel’s cases appear to show that the drug has been in the United States for over a year.
Krokodil is infamous for being popular in Russia.
It’s made using codeine, iodine, gasoline, paint thinner, hydrochloric acid, lighter fluid and red phosphorus.
The drug was dubbed Krokodil (crocodile) because of the scale-like appearance of its users, according to the New York Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. The office notes that the drug is often high impure and since it is injected produces severe tissue damage, including injury to the veins.
Another possible impact is death.
The sisters told the Daily Mail that they didn’t know they were taking Krokodil, thinking it was normal heroin. But they preferred the new drug since it’s about a tenth of the price of heroin.
However, weeks after they started using it, they began getting legions and sores on their arms and legs.
Angie, 29, became convinced that she was going to die after her condition worsened, and was rushed to the emergency room.
She is still receiving care at the hospital from Dr. Abhin Singla, a drugs specialist.
The sisters signed a medical release allowing the doctor to discuss their condition.
“The moment I saw Angie I knew what she had been taking. It was Krokodil without a shadow of a doubt. All the symptoms matched up 100 per cent,” said the doctor. “I have friends in Russia and I have been following this for some time, I was extremely worried it would come over to the US and now it has.”
Dr Singla said: “The sores are very different to anything else, they go right down to the bone. It is extremely graphic and worse than anything I’ve seen before.”
The drug first appeared in Russia in 2003, where it’s more difficult to get heroin.