Flesh-eating `Krokodil` drug surfaces in Will County - Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News

Flesh-eating `Krokodil` drug surfaces in Will County: Dr. Singla

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JOLIET, Ill. (FOX 32 News) -

A devastating and potentially deadly drug has made its way into the Chicago area and it is literally eating away users from the inside out.

It's called Krokodil because of the damage it does to a user's skin which makes it look like crocodile skin. So far, it appears to have affected five victims in Will County.

Krokodil first surfaced as a problem in Russia in 2003 and was the subject of a documentary there, but it had not been seen in the U.S. until cases were reported in Utah and Arizona last month.

Now, five people--three women and two men between 22 and 32--have come in to Presence St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet for treatment suffering from green scaly scabs and rotting flesh.

The first victim, a 25-year-old woman, came in Sunday night. Her doctor said she, like all the others, bought what she thought was heroin and after using it for about a week, developed sores on her legs.

"By the time she came in the hospital, she had 70-80% almost burns, they were really gangrene from the inside of the body burnt, gangrene, out," Addiction Medicine Specialist Dr. Abhin Singla explains. "So literally when I came in the room all you could smell was rotting flesh."

The drug is sold as heroin, but it's actually a mix of codeine and other toxic chemicals such as lighter fluid, gasoline and industrial cleaners.

"It's frightening," comments Pete McLenighan, who runs a substance abuse treatment center. "We've been here in Will County dealing with what we're referring to as a heroin epidemic."

McLenighan says 53 people died from overdoses last year.

Dr. Singla says krokodil is three times as potent as heroin and a third of the cost, making it a potentially attractive alternative to addicts.

"Even though they may know the consequences of it, in the throws of addiction they're not really thinking clearly and they'll do that," says Singla.

The DEA declined to comment on the matter. Chicago police told FOX 32 they are aware of the drug being in the city.

Joliet police said they want to talk to the victims to get more information, but they have alerted their officers to be on the lookout for any tell tale signs that Krokodil is actually being sold in the city.

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