The less glamorous but more likely culprit in the Krokodil scare—the one that didn’t make headlines—is a drug that Americans have been snorting, sniffing, and injecting for decades: heroin. The sores are nothing new, either. As widely documented on drug policy sites across the web, intravenous drug users are susceptible to a wide range of deadly infections, including HIV, Hepatitis, B/C, and MRSA—many of which can result in gangrenous skin, deep abscesses, and loss of limbs.
'We don’t have a Krokodil epidemic, we have a heroin and painkiller epidemic,' Dr. Andrew Kolodny, chief medical officer at Phoenix House, a non-profit alcohol and drug rehab center, tells The Daily Beast. 'This is not a new problem. Drug users are prone to skin infections and blood infections. There are serious medical infections that come from injecting drugs,' he says. While the infections are not new, Kolodny says increased heroin dependence means it won’t be the last time we see pictures like these.
“You really have to work hard to get hooked on smoking opium. The Victorian-era form of the drug, known as chandu, is rare, and the people who know how to use it aren’t exactly forthcoming. But leave it to an obsessive antiques collector to figure out how to get to addicted to a 19th-century drug.”