Krokodil, a cheap substitute for heroin, was one of the deadliest designer drugs ever to sweep through Russia. Appearing on the black market in the early 2000s, it wound up ensnaring hundreds of thousands of addicts across the country, and it spread especially fast in poor, industrial areas like Uralmash.
Its appeal was simple: addicts could easily learn to cook it in their kitchens using ingredients purchased at local pharmacies and hardware stores, among them hydrochloric acid, paint thinner and red phosphorous, which they scraped from the sides of match boxes. For a fraction of the price of heroin, the drug produced a similar high and was just as addictive.
But the damage it caused was far more gruesome and often irreversible. The addict's flesh at the injection site would often rot away, while the tissues of the brain and other vital organs were severely eroded. “So my expectation was to find that some of them had died,” Satolli says of his trip to find the addicts in Yekaterinburg this year. “But not so many."
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