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Health officials: Flesh-eating drug could soon hit La Crosse

By Carrie Vick, cvick@wkbt.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 12:08:13 PM CST
Updated On: Oct 26 2013 05:02:59 PM CDT
Wisconsin drug
LA CROSSE, WI -

A new deadly drug that recently made its way to the United States may now be in Wisconsin.

The drug eats a user's flesh from the inside out.

Officials say there is now an unconfirmed case in Eau Claire County.

The drug is called Krokodil because it literally makes a user's skin turn green and scaly.

It first started being used in Russia, but made its way to the states and local health officials say it's just a matter of time before it's in La Crosse.

"I don't know that there's any way to prevent it coming to this community, so what we need to work on is how to address it once it gets here," said Executive Director of Coulee Council on Addictions Keith Lease. "It has reached the Midwest, there are confirmed cases out of Illinois and as of yesterday we've heard that Eau Claire is looking into possibly having their first confirmed case."

Lease said it's a major threat to the area because it's often dealt as heroin and users don't realize what they're taking until the gruesome side effects appear.

"It causes gangrene-like effects on the body from within. So it eats away your skin, it eats away your organs. If you look at some of the photos of people using this drug it really is scary. It's spreading as the 'zombie drug' and that's not without reason, it really does look like people are getting eaten away from within," said Lease.

Medical experts say the average life expectancy of someone who uses Krokodil is two years.

"The drug is made by crushing codeine tablets and mixing it with gasoline, lighter fluid and paint thinner, very toxic drugs. It's cooked and all those toxins don't cook off so then you're basically injecting those toxins into your skin," said Mayo Clinic Health System's Dr. David Onsrud.

Onsrud said it's much cheaper then heroin and gives you a quicker, more intense high.

Onsrud said even if users know what it will do to them, they'll likely take it anyway.

"Addiction is a brain disease and people have no control over that. When they're in full-blown addiction it's a brain disease, a craving phenomena. The withdrawal, they get so sick that even if they know it's going to kill them they can't stop using," said Onsrud.

Officers from the La Crosse Police Department said they're educating their officers on the Krokodil drug now so they'll be ready to look for the signs.

They say a major way to combat Krokodil is to continue to fight heroin.

The Heroin Task Force in La Crosse added Krokodil to its list of dangerous drugs at its meeting Thursday night.

Group members say they're hoping to get out ahead of the drug before it reaches the area.

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