Backdoor Pharmacist: How Does Krokodil Rot Your Arm Off?

October 14, 2013 | Backdoor Pharmacist

“Krokodil” is the street-name for a concoction of gunk to democratize opioid-making. It’s in the news again because it made it to America and, allegedly, New York. We have the “Heroin Highway,” so why bother? Why try for yourself, when every news report is showing the stuff melting limbs? Why does Krokodil specifically cause people to rot?

Chemically, we’re talking about desomorphine. It’s an opioid first patented in the 1930s and branded as Permonid. It’s nearly 10 times as potent as morphine and some derivatives are even stronger. It would have fallen into obscurity, if it wasn’t for the fact that it was synthesized from codeine, which is available over the counter in Russia.

Some bright fellow in Russia with a university education in chemistry probably looked up the desomorphine synthesis in an attempt to find strong heroin substitutes that could be made via easily available codeine. Patents are freely viewable. US Patent 1980972 A specifies the original synthesis for desomorphine. From there, corners were cut, substitutes were found for controlled or hard to get chemicals and steps were dropped to make it easier for addicts to do. For fun, I looked up the “krokodil” synthesis to see what substitutions were made.

This is the ingredients list: petrol, iodine, OTC codeine tablets, matchheads, drain cleaner, acetone, eye drops, and promethazine. Immediately promethazine stands out. Promethazine and codeine is the stuff in purple drank. Promethazine and other antinausea drugs like diphenhydramine enhance or potentiate the effects of opioids. They’re adding it to get a stronger high. Promethazine was the subject of a lawsuit where a woman was improperly injected with promethazine, leading to the tissue in her arm dying and an amputation.

The OTC codeine tablets are another problem. The brands they mention aren’t just codeine and pill binders. They also have acetaminophen, caffeine, or diphenhydramine and other drugs in there. Then there’s the reaction itself. It’s clear these are substitutes for proper chemicals. But the yield is going to be low. In fact, I question if the majority of the high comes from desomorphine and not just other opioid drugs produced in this messy reaction.
Then there is the crap leftover. At the beginning of the reaction, they attempt to extract just the codeine. But afterwards, there’s no attempt to do a wash or an extraction; they just try and shoot up that sludge. The pH of the leftovers is way too low and would be contaminated with hydrogen iodide. It should make injection excruciating, cause chemical burns, leech calcium from the bones and eventually result in necrosis and scarring.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with desomorphine. It’s the addition of promethazine and the dirty synthesis that causes the horrors. The mystery is why is it suddenly showing up in the US, even with the scary pictures. My guess is the media attention and the cool sounding name. Grab your mom’s old Tylenol 3s, sneak some gas from dad’s car, raid the bottles under the sink and it’s free drugs! Whatever happened to playing Pokemon and watching Batman cartoons?

Don’t use this to have fun; try not to die.

Previously, the Backdoor Pharmacist does…
25I-NBOMeMolly, ambienquaaludesmephedronekratombenzossmart drugsmore sleeping pills and “bath salts.”
Backdoor Pharmacist does not drink coffee.