The 'krokodil' drug epidemic that's slowly invading Illinois has been brewing there for more than a year, two users of the flesh-eating drug claim.
Sisters Amber and Angie Neitzel, of Joliet, Ill., say they unknowingly injected krokodil 18 months ago and have been grappling with the drug's horrific effects since then.
Krokodil – Russian for "crocodile" and named for the gangrenous, rough, scaly skin that users develop – is thought to have originated overseas but is now slowly emerging in the United States. The substance is made by cooking codeine with various toxic chemicals like lighter fluid, gasoline, or paint thinner, and literally rots the flesh, sometimes down to the bone. It is reportedly cheaper than heroin and three times as potent.
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"It is a horrific way to get sick," Dr. Abhin Singla, a drug-treatment physician at the Presence St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, told NBC Washington
. "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."
So far, there have been two confirmed cases of use in Arizona, and five in Illinois. The Neitzel sisters are two of those five.
"It almost starts like a burn from a cigarette," Amber Neitzel told ABC7Chicago.com.
"It starts purple and then goes into a blister after five or six days."
The sisters, who are working with an infectious disease doctor to treat their conditions, say they've come forward in an effort to show other people the reality of drug use.
"If it touches one person at least and gets one person clean that's what I hope happens so bad," Amber Neitzel said.
An Oklahoma woman has also come forward to say that krokodil killed her best friend last year
"[His] skin was missing," the woman told KOCO.com of her friend's condition.
"The doctors said it ate him from the inside out. It wasn't until the next day that they told us that it was krokodil."
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