Russia is home to more than 2 million heroin users - more than anywhere else in the world. A cheaper and severely addictive morphine derivative called desomorphine, or krokodil, is widely available and becoming addicts' drug of choice. The name refers to the scaly appearance of krokodil users' skin, which often turns black or develops gangrenous sores. While Russian authorities remain silent, one group is determined to win this drug war. It uses a radical weapon: mandatory rehab for junkies.
For the past few months people in Moscow have been hearing about a new homemade drug, synthesized from codeine and known as "krokodil". This drug is 15 times as harmful as the real thing, and far more dangerous.
Even though some Russian media have done reports on the drug, hard facts about it remain scarce. Recently, some graphic videos have been uploaded to YouTube showing the terrible side effects the drug can have on its users.
We were in the city most affected by the krokodil epidemic: Ekaterinbourg, in the Urals. We first stopped at the local ”narcotic health center”, where addicts go to rest for a few days.