Authorities are investigating whether the new street drug “krokodil,” which is similar to heroin or morphine, claimed the life of Justin McGee of Duncan, Oklahoma. Krokodil has achieved notoriety on the Internet for it’s purported flesh-eating properties.
KSWO-TV in Oklahoma reported that the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics is trying to ascertain if krokodil was involved in the death of McGee, a father of four, and his friend.
If so, McGee and the other man could be the first deaths attributed to the drug.
There have been reports of krokodil appearing in Midwestern suburbs, including near Chicago, in New York City clubs, and in Oklahoma.
Medical professionals told The Verge website on Monday that at least eight krokodil cases have been reported in the U.S. in recent weeks.
However, the Verge report says that there have been at least three deaths, contrasting KWSO’s report. It is unclear if the Verge report includes the death of McGee and the other man.
Krokodil is made from codiene in a clandestine way–sometimes involving gasoline or other household chemicals–and has gained prominence in some parts of Russia as a cheap alternative to heroin. The krokodil moniker was given to the drug because it is said to give users scaly skin, gangrene, tissue damage, and phlebitis.
Some reports claim that the drug can cause heavy users to die in as little as two years.
In September 2013, the first possible use of the drug in the U.S. was reported in Arizona, but there have been several krokodil-related hospitalizations in Joliet, Illinois.
Dr. Abhin Singla, an addiction specialist at Presence St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, told Patch that he’s treated several people.
“As of late as last week, the first cases – a few people in Utah and Arizona – were reported to have been using the heroin-like drug, which rots the skin from the inside out,” said Singla.
He added: “It is a horrific way to get sick. The smell of rotten flesh permeates the room. Intensive treatment and skin grafts are required, but they often are not enough to save limbs or lives.”
Amber Neitzel and her sister Angie Neitzel of Joliet are confirmed victims of the drug.
“I’m scared to death right now. I can barely leave my house,” Angie Neitzel told ABC Chicago. “I have to go to an infectious disease doctor, decide how much it’s progressed and wind up doing skin grafts,” she added.