Here’s a Russian import we could do without:

A powerful heroin-like drug that rots flesh and bone has made its first reported appearance in the United States, an Arizona health official says.

Known on the street as “krokodil,” the caustic homemade opiate is made from over-the-counter codeine-based headache pills mixed with iodine, gasoline, paint thinner or alcohol. When it’s injected, the concoction destroys a user’s tissue, turning the skin scaly and green like a crocodile. Festering sores, abscesses and blood poisoning are common.

Krokodil is utterly terrifying. From Time’s investigation into how the drug has devastated Russia:

Predictably, it has spread the fastest in the poorest and most remote parts of the country, like Vorkuta, Pavlova’s hometown, a former Gulag prison camp about 100 miles (161 km) north of the Arctic Circle. The winters there last eight months of the year, and as Pavlova recalls, the young people are in a constant state of boredom. Most of them drink and few of them work, the same as in hundreds of towns and villages across Russia’s frozen north. Besides her, Pavlova says there were about a dozen krokodil addicts she hung around with, including her brother. “Practically all of them are dead now,” she says. “For some it led to pneumonia, some got blood poisoning, some had an artery burst in their heart, some got meningitis, others simply rot.

Note well in the Time story that Russian Evangelicals and Pentecostals, with no state support, have established a network of rehab homes for these addicts. God bless them.

I cannot imagine the state of mind that would drive someone to inject a drug that does this to one:

[UPDATE: I’ve moved the image to below the jump, per Erin’s request. — RD]

Nobody starts out saying, “Gosh, I’d love for my flesh to rot away! Can I have some of that stuff?” Can any of you readers with experience of the psychology of drug addiction help me understand how someone gets to the point where one injects krokodil? I mean, I understand someone using cocaine and heroin, because nobody thinks that their lives are going to be ruined by doing so. But krokodil’s effects are so horrifying, and so swift, that it seems impossible for a potential user to lie to himself about the fate that awaits him. Right? What am I not seeing? Help me understand.

We humans are so perverse and self-destructive. And hey, anti-drug war folks, surely fighting krokodil is a drug war even you think is worth waging. Yes?

[See the image below the jump.]