A newly reported case of krokodil in Ohio has a local sheriff offering drug users shocking advice.
A needle drug user in Athens County who had pus-filled, scaly scars where she had injected told detectives that she bought what she thought was heroin from a dealer who had in turn got his supply from Columbus.
After seeing the wounds, Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly told 10TV that he's convinced the drug she got was krokodil, an injectable heroin substitute with impurities that destroy blood vessels and cause flesh to rot off the bone. That concern has led the sheriff to advise users to get their drugs from a source that they trust.
"I'm hoping that they won't use heroin at all, but I'm not that naive. To say 'get your heroin from a trusted source' sounds ridiculous coming from a sheriff," Kelly told the station. "But if you're going to have to get your fix, you're not going to want to get ahold of krokodil."
Krokodil, a street drug that is made by cooking crushed codeine pills with household substances like paint thinner or gasoline, leaves green, scaly scars on users. Although multiple cases of the drug have been reported by doctors and local law enforcement across North America since September, the Drug Enforcement Administration has yet to confirm that the drug is present in the United States.
In order for the DEA to confirm krokodil's presence in the United States, agents would have to catch the drug in production or confirm the presence of desomorphine (the active ingredient in krokodil) and household hydrocarbons in a sample, an agency spokesman told The Huffington Post on Friday.
But to Kelly, the threat is real and a cause for concern.
"I've been worried about methamphetamine and heroin for years," Kelly told the station. "This just gives us another drug to be worried about."
Officials skeptical of the drug, which was first reported in Russia several years ago, have suggested that the sores on users' skin could come from bacterial infections spread by using dirty needles.
If that is the case, harm-reduction practices such as using clean needles from needle exchanges could help reduce the incidence of the gangrenous sores. But with krokodil, the damage to the body occurs from the impurities in the drug itself.
"If it's on the table of our drug users, it's gonna get out there," Roger Lowe, who runs a traveling needle exchange in Northeastern Ohio, told WKYC in October. "I think we're gonna see more of it and I'm terrified of what's gonna happen."