During the mid 1950’s William Burroughs wrote to Allen Ginsberg from Tangier, Morrocco regarding his experiences with liquid oxycodone. Sold over the counter in the International Zone under the German brand name Eukodol, he described at length spending extended periods of time locked away in his room, only moving to inject himself every two hours. He seemed to believe that the drug itself reflected a certain side of the German national character: “Trust the Germans to come up with some real evil ****.” One can only imagine how he would have tied Krokodil to the nihilistic post Soviet national mentality.
Krokodil, a true hillbilly cook up of desomorphine, first made the scene in far eastern Siberia in 2002. Thusly named for the greeensish/yellow scaly skin condition users attain in short order, its been rightly noted as a Burroughs nightmare fantasy come to life.
The former Soviet empire is an unbelievably vast space where isolation, crushing poverty and desperation seems to be the rule. Russia is a country where in the inhabitants are caught between Putin, Medvedev and the Oligarchs on one side and the Russian crime bosses on the other, and it’s plutocrat take all. The vast remainder of the population is left to escape by the avenues available to them…whether it be vodka or heroin. Mother Russia currently hold to her bosom a full two million heroin addicts, the largest number in the world. She also accounts for a full third of the world’s heroin deaths per year at around 30,000. How on earth does one keep up that habit, far from the ports and trade routes, where the heroin supply is unreliable and expensive? When it comes to the dope game, anyone who has spent time in Oklahoma will tell you that isolation can be the true mother of invention. The poor got to cooking.
Desomorphine was first synthesized in the United States in the early 30’s. Like so many derivatives of this type, fentanyl, hydromorphone, heroin itself, the result was a compound several times more powerful than the parent morphine. Desomorphine was briefly marketed by the Swiss concern Roche under the brand name Permonid, but was quickly abandoned. Due to a significantly shorter half life than its opioid cousins and sharp increases in addiction rates, desomorphine spent decades as nothing more than a notation in the books, a compound with no medicinal value.
Enterprising Russians found that by using codeine tablets easily obtained at pharmacies over the counter and cooking with a mixture of iodine, red phosphorous gasoline and hydrochloric acid they could get a crude desomorphine at approximately 3x less the cost of heroin: Krokodil. All this cheap dope independent of the dealers came with it’s own price. High concentrations of iodine disrupt the endocrine system, causing muscular disorders. Concentrations of heavy metals such as iron, zinc, lead and antimony attack the nervous system and lead to inflammation and shut down of the liver and kidneys; the phosphorous destroys bone tissue. The smallest miss of the vein on an injection site will lead to abscess and with the destruction of circulation comes the gangrene. The user will begin to rot. And the kick…oh my the kick…heroin withdrawal lasts at most a week, usually closer to three days, psychological effects aside. A Krokodil kick lasts upwards of a month which includes convulsions and unbearable pain, in which the sufferer will have to be heavily sedated to simply have a chance of escaping madness from the horror of it all. Despite what the movies may show, no one is going through that on a heroin detox. This all happens in very short order. Someone on Krokodil gets a year, maybe two.
"I remember one day, we cooked for three days straight.You don’t sleep much when you’re on krokodil, as you need to wake up every couple of hours for another hit. At the time we were cooking it at our place, and loads of people came round and pitched in. For three days we just kept on making it. By the end, we all staggered out yellow, exhausted and stinking of iodine."
"It’s that smell of iodine that infuses all their clothes. There’s no way to wash it out, all you can do is burn the clothes. Any flat that has been used as a krokodil cooking house is best forgotten about as a place to live. You’ll never get that smell out of the flat."
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any pills containing codeine
dry akali. can be found in hard surface cleaners.
gasoline or lighter fluid
2 plastic bottles. preferably 1.5 liter and 0.5 liter
red phosphorous, obtained from match heads
30% hydrochloric acid or electrolyte
1-Codeine + SOCl2 —> α-Chlorocodide + HCl + SO2
2-α-Chlorocodide + I2 —> 7,8 diiodo α-Chlorocodide
3-7,8 diiodo α-Chlorocodide + HI —-> desomorphine
“To sit back hoping that someday, some way, someone will make things right is to go on feeding the crocodile, hoping he will eat you last – but eat you he will.”