The flesh-eating drug known as “krokodil” has not been reported in Grundy County – but local authorities fear it’s only a matter of time before it is.
“The potential is there for it to surface in Grundy County because heroin is here,” Sheriff Kevin Callahan said. “I hope it doesn’t. I hope word gets out of the side effects and I hope people wouldn’t do it.”
Krokodil, also called crocodile, is a heroin-like drug that originated in Russia. As of Wednesday, there were five reported cases in Will County at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, according to Jan Ciccarelli, director of marketing and community relations.
The drug eats a person’s skin from the inside out, Dr. Abhin Singla, director of Addiction Services at Saint Joseph, said in a news release.
There have been no reported cases at Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers, according to Public Relations Manager Janet Long.
Krokodil is comparable to morphine, with similar properties of methamphetamine, but is cheaper, according to the Saint Joseph news release. It is made of a combination of codeine tablets and gasoline, paint thinner, lighter fluid or other substances.
The toxic mix destroys a user’s flesh and leaves gangrene and large abscesses on the user’s body. The name krokodil comes from the scaly green appearance the drug causes. Singla said in the news release that in some cases it can be so advanced that muscles, tendons and bones can be seen.
“It is a horrific way to get sick,” Singla stated in the release.”The smell of rotten flesh permeates the room. Intensive treatment and skin grafts are required, but they often are not enough to save limbs or lives.”
Authorities and medical professionals believe many users are receiving the drug from dealers believing it is heroin.
“It’s on a whole other level when it comes to the dangers and its effects,” said Morris Police Chief Brent Dite, chairman of the Metropolitan Area Narcotics Squad.
Heroin use has increased in Grundy County in recent years, Grundy County State’s Attorney Jason Helland said.
“Heroin is cheap and readily available on the streets in Grundy County,” Helland said.
“[Krokodil] has appeared in Will County,” he said “If it’s in Will County, it would be my guess that it’s going to make it here at some point.”
Through its efforts to fight the heroin problems, officials are hoping to prevent the flesh-eating drug from spreading here.
Helland’s office may use funds from its Grundy County State’s Attorney’s Asset Forfeiture Account, which can be used to enforce drug laws, to get more drug dogs in the county. He is working with Minooka and Morris to get those municipalities their own canine units.
He is also working with Coal City to help the village’s police department obtain cameras to increase surveillance of certain areas for drug use, Helland said.
The sheriff’s department has two canine units available to aid municipalities and the state with interstate stops, Callahan said.
Officers are trained to look at traffic stops for suspicious activity involving drugs and have access to the canine unit so one officer can concentrate on the traffic stop and the canine officer on the dog’s work.
In addition, local law enforcement constantly follows up on tips given to Crime Stoppers, as the sheriff said the majority of calls are drug-related. Information is followed up and passed on to MANS, a law enforcement group that combats the sale of drugs in Will and Grundy counties. Dite serves as chairman of that group.
Local municipalities either financially support MANS or have an active officer as a member. The squad leaders met recently and had an update on the krokodil activity.
“All the law enforcement agencies are trying to get out in front of it and aggressively,” Dite said.
Local agencies are concentrating on finding the suppliers, Dite said. It’s important to recover some of the drug to have it tested and learn more about it.
“This is something you don’t want in your community. It goes to a whole new level and attacks from the inside,” he said. “People have lost their limbs and their lives over it.”