Flesh-eating heroin substitute yet to reach Northern Michigan
NORTHERN MICHIGAN — A substitute for heroin that causes necrosis — or physical cell death of tissue — is creating concern in the Midwest after the Drug Enforcement Agency confirmed several cases in Joliet, Ill., Oct. 11 but has yet to come to Northern Michigan.
According to an official statement from the Michigan Prosecutors Forum Oct. 15, the drug, desomorphine, street name krokodil, is cheaper than heroin, but creates a similar high by stimulating the same neural receptors. The drug is made by taking codeine-based pills and mixing them with gasoline, paint thinner, hydrochloric acid and red phosphorous and distilling the mixture.
The Food and Drug Administration lists desomorphine as an opium derivative.
Strike Team Investigative Narcotics Unit Commander Jeff Keister said he has not received any information or warnings regarding the drug being in the area, but hopes it does not show up here.
“It’s like (methamphetamine) — it’s scary stuff,” he said. “I don’t want anything to do with it. I don’t have any solid intelligence on it. It is obviously a bad drug, but I have not heard anything about it being in the area.”
Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist Laurie Aimes for Catholic Human Services said the drug is incredibly potent and addicts are not concerned with a hazardous tissue damage side effect.
“I was assured over a year ago that it would never make its way to the U.S., but it has,” she said. “The downhill slide from this is faster than anything, and even though people are in the worst state physically — with open wounds, etc. — they still are compelled to keep using. God save anyone who tries it.”
Keister said any time a drug in unconventionally processed for street use, the results can be dangerous.
“Right now, we are concerned with people cutting heroin with fentanyl,” he said. “People think it is just heroin, but it is a lot stronger. They take their regular amount and overdose. Problems come up when people start cutting drugs, trying to make more money.”
Aimes said the low street price for krokodil is what makes it so menacing.
“This is going to be a mess if it takes hold just for that reason, that it’s cheaper,” she said. “From my experience, an addict doesn't really care what it is they are doing, as long as the high is the same. This drug acts on the same part of the brain as heroin the same way, so if it's cheaper, no problem. Addicts aren't ever thinking long term.”
Keister said people who have relationships with addicts are key to getting them drug free in the long run.
“We can help them by arresting them and putting them in the system,” he said. “Where they need help from is friends and family. They need to get them the help they need. If they don’t want to get cured, there isn’t a whole lot we can do.”