For the first time, however, a short article has appeared with more details, and has just been published in Clinical Toxicology by three Russian resesarchers.
The main part of the article is reproduced below edited to remove the references.
“Crocodile” is a street name of drug containing mainly desomorphine (Dihydrodesoxymorphine-D), produced in home conditions by simple synthesis from codeine, most often on the basis of codeine-containing medicines, in Russia available over-the-counter so far. Desomorphine presents sedative and analgesic effects; it is 8–15 times more potent than morphine, and has weaker toxic, convulsant, emetic and respiratory depression action.
The drug is administered intravenously or intramuscularly. It has very fast onset of action (2–3 min) and a short duration of action (2 h). First symptoms of addiction usually appear after 5–10 days. From intake of the first dose, death comes maximally after 2–3 years, but even single dose may be lethal for predisposed person. High toxicity is caused by the presence of impurities. Skin in the places of injections becomes grey and green, scabrous, flakes off, so it resembles the skin of crocodile. Postproduction impurities (residues of acids and alkalis, petroleum derivatives, industrial oils, organic solvents, red phosphorus, iodine, heavy metals) act irritant on vessels which become damaged and afterwards obliterated.
It causes peripheral limb ischemia with following necrosis, often secondarily infected, which require surgical intervention and even limb amputations. So this drug “bites” the limbs, as a real crocodile. Addicted people may be recognized by the smell of iodine, used during drug production. “Crocodile” generally is similar to so-called “Polish heroin” (“compote”)— drug produced also in home conditions from poppy straw, popular in Poland till the late 1990s.
The “crocodile” is cheap (costs less than one can of bear), so it is very popular and is used mainly by poor opiate drug addicts in Russia. Its production developed at the time of restriction of heroin trafficking from Afghanistan. According to current estimates, in Russia there are 100—250 thousands of people addicted to “crocodile.” About 30 thousands of people die per year.
The presence of this drug was confirmed in Germany (among immigrants from Russia), Czech Republic, Ukraine, France, Belgium, Sweden and Norway. Unofficially, one fatal poisoning of 23-year-old man from Warsaw in Poland, in December 2011, is suspected, but we don’t know details yet, because of lasting investigation. With people migration, we should expect single cases of “crocodile” use in countries, where it is not present at this moment.
Oddly the article has translated the Russian ‘krokodil’ into ‘crocodile’ for the article, despite the fact it is more widely known by its original spelling.
Interestingly though, it seems that the drug is another in the line of nasty highs that can be synthesised by anyone with household ingredients and a single container (the other being the single bottle methamphetamine synthesis).