PORTLAND -- The Russian word for crocodile is also the name of a potent drug that has swept that country and has now popped up at a hospital in Phoenix.
Krokodil is named for the effect the drug has on a user's skin. It destroys tissue from the inside out and makes skin appear scaly and green like a crocodile.
"On the street it's the cheapest opiate you can get," said Dr. Melissa Weimer, the medical director for 1500 patients at CODA drug treatment centers in Portland. "It's to early to tell if it's here or not because sometimes patients use drugs and don't tell us until after the fact."
Some intravenous drug users on the Portland streets have been talking about the new drug, which is a cheap substitute for heroin. Local emergency room doctors worry it could be just a matter of time before we see the first cases here.
"I don't condone IV drug use of any kind, but this stuff can be especially nasty," said Providence ER doctor Tom Calverey.
Krokodil is created from codeine pills mixed with iodine, gasoline or paint thinner. It's just a fraction of the price of heroin and creates a similar high, but the effects to the body are devastating. It destroys skin to the point where it's been nicknamed "the flesh eating drug."
The Internet is filled with disturbing images of what the drug does to the human body.
"Someone originated this because it's a cheap way to get the heroin high," said Calverey.
Portland police have no reports of Krokodil. The Multnomah county medical examiner's office has no reported deaths from the drug, but say it may be tough to spot because toxicology tests show up as codeine.