Painkiller-Addicted Babies a Growing U.S. Concern

June 30, 2015 by  
Filed under Treatment and Recovery News


Newborn baby girl crying , ten days old.

As the problem with addiction to pain medication and other opioids increases in our country, so does the incidence of infants being born addicted. According to a recent report from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the number of U.S. babies born withdrawing from narcotic painkillers has tripled since 1995.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome, stemming from increased rates of addiction to oxycodone, morphine and hydrocodone, has become a nationwide epidemic. Withdrawal symptoms for infants include seizures, muscle spasms, shaking, diarrhea, vomiting and high fever, along with extensive crying, which can all last from a few weeks to a few months. The symptoms are usually seen in infants early as two weeks of age.

In Florida, where research is being conducted to quell the onset of such high incidence, doctors suggest increasing treatment for mother exposed or addicted to painkillers. The increasing rates of babies born with birth defects caused by their mother’s addiction to opioid drugs has also alarmed a number of Florida doctors. These birth defects, aside from the babies’ withdrawal syndrome, include heart, brain and spinal problems as well as high risks for premature birth and decreased birth weight.

The reports also show that from 2010 to 2011 alone, 242 babies in three hospitals were born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. With this onset increase in infant birth defects, CDC has been contacted to provide assistance to physicians and mental health professionals.

Infants in four out of five cases require treatment with morphine or anti-seizure medications to control withdrawal symptoms, a Florida doctor reports. The hospitals are also required to place these babies in neonatal intensive care units, where they stay an average of 26 days while being treated.

Because the mothers of babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome suffer from addiction, few of them are able to afford to put their newborns in such expensive treatments. At the same time, a number of these infants do not get to go home as their mother’s are decline custody, usually landing the children in foster care. This interferes with bonding between the mother and baby, which is an important developmental stage of mental health for the infant.

One solution, according to both medical and mental health providers, is to place these mothers in immediate treatment when they test positive for drugs during pregnancy. Currently, it is reported that only 10 percent of addicted mothers are being sent for help. Intervention to the mother’s addiction is one way to reduce the incidence of babies being born with these issues, provided they are able to abstain from substance use during pregnancy.

Canadian Reports

Doctors in one Canadian province of Ontario report a rate of increase at 15 times during the years from 1992 to 2011. The Canadian treatment for mothers who have taken or abused pain medications during pregnancy is to place them on Methadone, which is reported to counter-balance the effects of pain medication addiction, increasing birth rates without infant withdrawal symptoms.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

SAMHSA Releases New Guidelines for Treating Alcohol Use Disorder

June 12, 2015 by  
Filed under Treatment and Recovery News


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe largest U.S. government agency that deals with public mental health issues has released an updated guide to widely used alcohol addiction and abuse medications. While other large treatment communities have long voiced out their own opinions regarding regulation of medication treatments, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s recent update is an addition to the progress being made within this arena over the past few years.

Along with the updated diagnostic tools found in the current The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), SAMHSA also sends treatment providers “Medication for the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder: A Brief Guide,” which is a booklet that allows for charting the course of a patient’s treatment experience using medications that are increasingly becoming more popular in treating different degrees of alcohol dependence.

Medication-assisted treatment for alcohol abuse and dependence has seen an increase nationwide. One reason for the growth of this treatment protocol are changes in medical insurance. Often, these changes are driven by the need to reduce treatment episodes for each individual as costs for detoxification and treatment program services continue to rise, along with numbers of individuals who require treatment.

Many treatment providers have struggled for decades to meet these increasing needs and create a bridge from patient treatment to long-term recovery for patients. While medication-assisted alcohol abuse management is not new, some of the drugs and their methods of prescription have been receiving new uses.

Currently, there are four medications recognized to be the most appropriate treatment for alcohol dependence. SAMHSA’s booklet provides a table with information about the use of these four medications and the DSM-5 criteria for severity of alcohol dependence. When used as suggested, these medications may be used as short-term or long-term tools for recovery.

The four drugs, which have been approved by the U.S. Drug Administration (FDA) for alcohol disorder treatment in the detoxification and oral processes and for preventing relapse, include disulfiram, acamprosate, oral naltrexone and an injectable extended-release form of naltrexone.

  • Disulfiram (Antabuse) has been used for a long time for alcohol use and abuse, mostly as a preventative intervention. This drug causes abdominal discomfort and illness if the patient drinks alcohol while on the medication.
  • Acamprosate (Campral) is a medication used to bridge the brain’s functioning in the glutamatergic and GABAergic systems. These are the areas of the brain thought to control mood and nervous system health. When alcohol use and withdrawal disrupts this dynamic, the drinker experiences mild to severe symptoms, both as a result of drinking and of stopping drinking. This drug is primarily used post-withdrawal to alleviate long-term symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.
  • Oral Naltrexone (also known as Vivitrol) is a newer medication used for blocking the opiate receptors, or pleasure-sensing receptors in the brain. Both forms of the drug give the same effect when alcohol is introduced; the patient receives no sensation of pleasure. The oral form of the drug is used to introduce these effects at onset of treatment to provide relief from cravings and withdrawal.
  • Injectable, extended-release Naltrexone is used for long-term purposes of abolishing the cravings for alcohol and a return to drinking behaviors (relapse).

SAMHSA’s booklet cuts through the usual challenges that comes with working with various clinical criteria and caters to providers who are not trained in medical settings, such as counselors and other lay persons without medical education.

Along with guidelines for assessing and diagnosing alcohol dependence, SAMHSA also lists other possibly co-existing mental and physical health conditions, which can interfere with alcohol abuse treatment if not addressed. Based on each patient’s needs, assessment for medication-assisted treatment begins. SAMHSA has also produced a guide for how much treatment to use as the patient progresses through specific stages of treatment.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

Prescription Drug Abuse: Teenagers Get Legally High


girl holding prescription pillsLegal drugs, including painkillers like OxyContin, now kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). A 2015 research study suggests that the deadly consequences are often seen in teenagers as they remain unaware of the significant physical dangers from readily available prescription drugs.

The CDC has labeled this dire situation among our youth as an “epidemic” as 44 people in the United States die from overdose of prescription painkillers. The trend, the organization states, continues to increase and hit adolescent aged individuals due to problematic practices.

“Prescription drugs are seen as blessed by a trusted institution, the FDA, while increasingly aggressive advertising by drug companies simultaneously floods parents and children with messages that these substances are safe, popular, and beneficial,” lead researcher Richard Netemeyer and his colleagues wrote in The Legal High: Factors Affecting Young Consumers’ Risk Perceptions and Abuse of Prescription Drugs.

The Current Research

This latest nationwide study went directly to the teens via an internet survey and requested information in these areas:

  1. Their use of substances including alcohol, tobacco and both legal and illegal drugs.
  2. Whether they struggle with anxiety and/or a desire to be popular.
  3. The level of risk they associated with prescription drugs.

The findings revealed:

  1. Prescription drug use increased in direct proportion to psychological states such as anxiety.
  2. Use of legal prescriptions increased the use of other restricted substances such as alcohol.
  3. Male teens with a high need to be popular and teens in general appear to be at exceptional risk.
  4. Prescription drug abuse accelerated exponentially among this demographic, such as when the level of anxiety or desire to be popular was at its very highest.

What’s Next?

Many experts believe his segment of prescription drug abuse can be avoided with adult involvement. As grown-ups, it is our responsibility to counsel and provide healthy coping mechanisms for our teens when they experience high levels of anxiety.

Providing information, knowledge and support can help in advance of teenagers experimenting with prescription drugs.

The study’s investigators concluded that, “Campaigns must target parents … since they clearly underestimate both the physical risks of prescription drugs and the likelihood that their children will abuse these drugs.”

Audrey Beim holds two advanced degrees from major universities, including a Master’s Degree in Psychology. She has over 20 years of experience in the health, wellness, nutritional and fitness categories and has used her expertise to write articles for media outlets such as Linfield Media and

Treating Serious Mental Illness in Prison

May 26, 2015 by  
Filed under Treatment and Recovery News


A black man with hands outside the bars of a prison cellThe dismal history of treatment for mental illness in the U.S. include stoning them to death, burning them at the stake and locking them in cages to separate them from the rest of the population. These tactics are seldom fit for animals, yet they were applied stating that this is in the best interest of both them and others.

Historically, a diagnosis of mental illness was a sentence to ostracizing, minimizing and socially shutting out those afflicted. Prior to the 1800s, mental institutions were places of barbarism and torture. With the advent of psychiatry as a viable medical practice in the early 1900s, mental illness started to be discussed more often and treated with greater focus. Hospitals were more often the choice for housing mentally ill persons and were developed to be more humane throughout the century. As the numbers of mentally ill patients grew, the high costs of operating these hospitals began to wear on tax dollars and politicians began to seek less expensive ways to treat our mentally ill citizens.

During the 1970s through 1990s, hospitals were closed down due to high costs and low funding. The creation of housing options was rampant, but not sufficient to keep mentally ill people housed and cared for physically and medically. Today, most of the mentally ill persons in this country — as is the case worldwide — have become homeless. Increasingly, their illnesses have also led them to perform illegal acts.

Serious Mental Illness Among Inmates

Today, we have a high number of imprisoned persons who are incarcerated in state, county and municipal jails and prisons. The numbers are staggering, given the state of our current penal institutions and the overcrowded conditions that are bankrupting state, county and federal financial systems.

About 20 percent of those incarcerated in jails and 15 percent of those in state prisons have what is described as a serious mental illness (SMI). Serious mental illnesses include schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depression or brief psychotic disorder. Since many mentally ill persons use and abuse alcohol and drugs, these disorders are complicated by their abuse and/or dependence on those substances. This number reflects approximately 356,000 inmates nationwide, or ten times the number of persons being treated in state hospitals.

Not only are our jails and prisons being filled up with mentally ill offenders, those who are mentally ill are also more likely to remain in these settings much longer than those who do not have a mental illness diagnosis. As an example, one article found that New York Riker’s Island Jail had an average length of stay of 42 days, which translated into 215 days for mentally ill inmates.

A Shortage of Mental Healthcare

A deputy in a Mississippi detention center who referred to his prisoners said, “They howl all night long. If you’re not used to it, you end up crazy yourself.” The story of the terrible things these prisoners do to themselves and others because of the lack of mental health treatment in prisons are horrifying and too real.

Lack of funding for treating the mentally ill is causing rising numbers of crimes everywhere. One state with a large problem is Virginia, where the state’s largest mentally ill population resides in state prison; which houses 3 times more of them than do the state hospitals. Law enforcement officials once offered part of their budget to the mental health system to get proper care for the mentally ill in their custody.

Shortages of appropriate care and housing of mentally ill persons has led to numerous violent crimes, including homicides, rape and physical attacks resulting in serious injury for the victims.

Recommended Solutions

Recommendations for treating the mentally ill who are imprisoned include housing in communities where their conditions can receive appropriate medical treatment and they can receive socially viable skills for living with their condition.

Other recommendations are to give them appropriate counseling and therapy to stop the high incidence of drug and alcohol abuse and dependence, to create programs that train and work with these individuals so that they may procure employment opportunities, and to increase knowledge and cooperation between law enforcement and mental health professionals to work with this population more effectively

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

Increase in Opioid Misuse: The Painful Truth

May 17, 2015 by  
Filed under Treatment and Recovery News


bottle of pillsA recent analysis of 35 existing studies about opioids has revealed an astounding increase in its use, misuse and addiction. Opioids—medications that include Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, morphine and codeine—are known to be both psychologically and physically addictive. Often, opioid users become dependent on the medication and get to a point where they need to up their doses to induce the same level of euphoria. Prescriptions of these highly addictive medications have exploded in the past decade, hiking up the cases of opioid reliance and uncontrollable usage.

The Rise of Opioid Prescriptions

An estimated 20 to 30 percent of opioid drugs legally prescribed by medical professionals are misused, according to a 2015 study published by the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP). “On average, misuse was documented in approximately one out of four or five patients,” writes Kevin Vowles, a professor at University of New Mexico, and his colleagues. The study also states that “addiction [occurs] in approximately one out of ten or eleven patients.” The report, which is an analysis of 35 existing studies primarily conducted in the United States, classified three problematic types of opioid use:

  1. Misuse – When opioids are used contrary to instructions
  2. Abuse – Exploiting the drug for its euphoric effects for recreational purposes
  3. Addiction – Continued opioid use with actual or potential harmful effects

A Possible Solution

This update on the rising opioid usage has led many experts to call for a strategy and immediate plan to put an end to what the study dubs as an “opioid epidemic.” Generally, the study’s authors tout that helping to reduce the misuse of powerful pain killers may be as basic as educating and monitoring patients. Vowles, who is the study’s lead researcher, suggests that “[since] one in four patients on opioids display patterns of opioid misuse, but not addiction, then perhaps more efficient targeting of treatment resources would be of benefit.”

Audrey Beim holds two advanced degrees from major universities, including a Master’s Degree in Psychology. She has over 20 years of experience in the health, wellness, nutritional and fitness categories and has used her expertise to write articles for media outlets such as Linfield Media and

The Toll of Drug Use on 200 Million People Worldwide

May 8, 2015 by  
Filed under Treatment and Recovery News


hand reaching for pillsEarlier this year, Los Angeles Times reported numbers for drug abuse worldwide, commenting on the impact on the cost of healthcare due to widespread drug use. It is estimated that 200 million people worldwide use illegal drugs every year. These numbers do not include alcohol or tobacco use, which also impacts healthcare services and costs dramatically.

The Drugs

The study was conducted by The Lancet, a medical journal in the United Kingdom. The specific drugs that the study is focusing on are opioids, amphetamines, cocaine and marijuana. Their information is being compiled from reports on drug use and abuse, dependence, fatalities and other health concerns recognized to be consequential to drug abuse. While other substances may have health implications, these four drugs offer the most thorough information from which to conduct the study.


Globally, marijuana use is estimated at 125 to 203 million users. Amphetamine use is shown at 14 to 56 million users, opioids are reportedly used by 12 to 21 million and cocaine use is reportedly 14 to 21 million persons.

Total number of users has increased worldwide. 2012 statistics on illegal drug use have shown increases from 180 to 185 million in the 1990s to early 2000.

Drug users who inject drugs number from 11 million to 21 million. It is estimated that 1 in 20 persons who are in the age group between 15 and 64 are using illegal drugs.

Health Implications

Obvious side effects of drugs are deaths caused by overdose. Other far-reaching complications include heart disease, lung and breathing problems, kidney and liver disorders and mental illness.

Health care costs for those impacted by drug use include the astronomical number of persons who suffer from heart and lung diseases caused by tobacco use. While legal, tobacco is known to cause over 5 million fatalities per year worldwide. An increase of up to 8 million is expected by the year 2030.

This number does not include those 16 million Americans who suffer from some form of disease directly attributable to tobacco use. It is estimated that for each death from smoking, 30 more persons suffer from a smoking-related illness.

Over 2 million people die from alcohol abuse each year around the world. This number far overshadows the 250,000 estimated annual deaths due to use of illegal drugs. However, the years of life lost for illegal drug use comes in at over 2 million. The reason it is higher than that of alcohol (1.5 million) is because many illicit drug users begin to experiment with drugs at a young age and subsequently die from them.

Healthcare costs for those who do not die from drug overdose are astronomical. Why? Those with persistent and ongoing healthcare issues caused by drugs will run in the billions of dollars per year. Care for chronic and persistent illness is costly and those who have these health issues are going to increase annually, as do the numbers of drug users who incur health issues around their drug use and abuse.

More Findings

The number of persons who use illegal drugs vary from those who actually become dependent. This ratio is impossible to determine, since there is no formula that applies. There is also little correlation that can be drawn between users who go on to incur healthcare costs because causal implications cannot be formulated either.

What is significant and does show strong trends for the future, as these statistics impact the field of healthcare, are the staggering number of persons who use illegal drugs. It must be recognized that costs will continue to rise as incidence of use escalates.


United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. World Drug Report 2011. Retrieved online from:

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

Naloxone Can Treat Cocaine and Heroin Addiction

May 1, 2015 by  
Filed under Treatment and Recovery News


naloxone molecular diagramThe search continues for ways to prevent rampant spread of addiction. Since treatment protocols are only somewhat effective, there is a search for replacement or substitute drugs that can interfere with the progression of addiction in those who use drugs.

Drugs can either interfere with the chemical reaction of the body to other substances of abuse or create adverse effects like Antabuse, which is used to stop drinking behaviors by making the drinker sick if they’re on the drug.

Researchers have discovered one drug, Naloxone, which has shown promise for heroin addicts. Recently, drug researchers at both the University of Adelaide, South Australia and University of Colorado in Boulder have shown interesting links in the use of Naloxone.

How Naxolene Works

Previously seen to be effective in blocking the use of a brain receptor believed to be linked in addiction to heroin, Naloxone has shown the same benefits when used to block the addictive properties of cocaine.

This receptor, known to scientists as Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) is an immune receptor in the brain that responds to cocaine to produce a pro-inflammatory response. This response is considered a vital link in the reward system underlying formation of the addictive process.

In previous testing, scientists proved that using the drug Naloxone, along with heroin or cocaine, disrupts the process of binding the drug(s) to the receptor, thus ceasing pleasurable sensations normally caused by the drug. Without these pleasurable sensations, the continued use of the drug has no pleasurable effect on the brain of the addict.

The User’s Brain

The first response that a heroin or cocaine user feels is a sense of well-being and pleasure, often called “a rush.” This rush is created, according to the research, in the receptor known as TLR4 which is known to play a key part in creating addiction to the drug.

The user continues to seek the rush and drug use escalates as more and more of the drug is required to achieve the same effect. This is the process of addiction called tolerance. When there is no pleasure involved, it is believed that the user will stop using the drug.

Making Progress

Discovering that the same receptor is responsible for the rush received with cocaine is a big step toward testing Naloxone for further use in substances of addiction, such as methamphetamine, alcohol and others. We can perhaps speculate that addiction has a common mental component that is as simple as overusing the TLR4 receptor in the brain of a user. We might even go so far as to wonder if this is the key to finding a common solution to stopping the addictive properties of all drugs on the brains of users who have this common factor for addiction.


Medical News Finding new ways to treat cocaine dependence could help with all addictions. Retrieved online from:

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

Indiana Enacts Law Changes to Protect Drug Abusers from HIV Surge


red ribbonA portion of Southern Indiana has been the site of a rapid rise in HIV cases. The focal point of the recently enacted legislation is the rural town of Austin, Indiana, with a population of about 4,200 people. Indiana’s governor has recently declared a statewide Public Health Emergency in order to bring in necessary medical aid to combat this outbreak. He has reversed the laws in Indiana that prevent clean needle exchanges in order to stem the tide of the number of new cases. At that time, 80 persons ranging in age from 20 to 56 had been identified as being infected. Governor Mike Pence has also increased Medicaid programs in the state to fund treatment for infected persons.

New cases of HIV infection are reported, by law, to the Indiana’s Public Health Department, which is how the trend was first recognized. One report, only a week later, found over 100 cases of positive test results. HIV testing has reached only those who report having sex or sharing needles with persons who are known to have tested positive for the virus which causes AIDS.

Public Reception

Little response to the widespread promotion of exchanging dirty needles for clean ones has been seen thus far. Only four residents had come forward and exchanged over 300 dirty needles. Most of the addicts, who are credited with spreading the virus, are afraid of legal repercussions and will not come forward to receive clean needles.

Most citizens of the small community blame the medical crisis on residents in a part of town called the “North End” and houses designated as “shooting galleries.” These are houses where those addicted to pain medications gather to use drugs intravenously, using and sharing needles, thereby spreading the virus. Police in the community are aware of the high incidence of drug use in this area and have doubled their efforts to control drug trafficking in and out of the neighborhood. Prostitution in this area is another danger, since most of those who engage in this form of sexual activity are infected.


The drug most commonly used by the population of this area is Opana, a narcotic designated for treatment of pain. Crushed pills are mixed with liquid to allow injection of the medication. This gives the user a faster and more intense high than taking the pills orally. Efforts by the makers of Opana in 2012 to make it more difficult to use in this fashion have not succeeded. The pills are sold illegally for an average of $30 per pill.

The only physician in the town of Austin has initiated much of the effort to work with those who test positive to receive treatment and information about the virus. He and his staff are hard at work to educate and inform everyone in town about the dangers of HIV and sharing needles and sexual activity with known HIV positive persons. Several medical professionals from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) have been brought in to help test and refer patients for treatment.

Medical treatment for HIV-positive individuals is high, at about $20,000 per year for each patient. The closest clinic to Austin providing HIV treatment is in Louisville, KY, a short commute away. This is the biggest rural outbreak of HIV cases since 1985, when a town in Florida was the focus of concern for cases of the virus.


Goodnough, Abbey. (March 30, 2015) The New York Times. Indiana Races to Fight H.I.V. Surge Tied to Drug Abuse. Retrieved online from:

NBC News. HIV Outbreak in Indiana Tops 100 Cases. Retrieved online from:

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

Tide Detergents Stolen in Exchange for Drugs

April 3, 2015 by  
Filed under Treatment and Recovery News


shelves of tide in grocery aisleCall it customer loyalty or call it “liquid gold,” the new street name for Tide liquid detergent. Thieves in New York and some other areas along the East Coast have one specific brand in mind when they shoplift from supermarkets, bodegas and discount stores (such as Target, Walmart, Costco, etc.).

Considered a number-one target for theft, Tide detergent remains at the top of a list of consumer products that have gained strong survival during the economic downturn of the last 8 years. Along with two other producers, Kraft and Coca Cola, Tide is a brand that few people will leave to use discount products.

Because of this popularity with consumers, it has become a hugely desired item in East Coast black market streets. Lower incidence is seen on the West Coast, although reports were made of a high-speed chase following a detergent robbery in California.

Recognizing the high level of theft that this product receives, police began to investigate what was happening with Tide and found that it was the number one item being stolen from retailers. One city in Bowie, Maryland reported losses of $10,000.00 to $15,000.00 per month in this one product alone.

What’s Really Happening

Thieves are selling Tide on the streets for less than the nearly $20.00 per bottle it draws in the marketplace and most of the money made from the sales is going for drugs. In fact, thieves who were willing to talk about their use of the detergent reported that a single bottle could be exchanged for $5.00 in cash or $10.00 in weed or crack cocaine.

The idea of customer loyalty to the point where families will buy black market Tide is a serious indicator of hard times. Approximately 30 percent of the money going toward laundry detergent is spent on this product, which remains at the top of the list of products that have the strongest name identification; and consumers insist on using only this brand.

The exchange of detergent for drugs is an interesting market trade. While there were no comments available from the manufacturers, this can hardly be a source of good advertising for them. It appears that clean clothes are precious enough to exchange for drugs in today’s economy.


NewYork Magazine. Suds for Drugs. Tide detergent: Works on tough stains. Can now also be traded for crack. A case study in American ingenuity, legal and otherwise. Retrieved online from:

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

Krokodil Drug Use in US

March 20, 2015 by  
Filed under Treatment and Recovery News


Australian Freshwater crocodileKrokodil comes from Russia, where there is a severe shortage of heroin. The war in Afghanistan, amongst other factors in decreasing production of opium in that country (the world’s largest producer of opium poppies) is directly attributed to the creation of this drug.

The drug is made from codeine tablets with lighter fluid or paint thinner, and is a highly toxic substance. Injection of the drug increases the rapid effects. An active ingredient in codeine medication is Desomorphine, which is 8-10 times more potent and addictive than morphine. Desomorphine also acts much faster than morphine. These factors account for the widespread use of the drug, despite its horrific side effects.

The other ingredients that create its toxic and flesh-rotting effects are red phosphorous and high quantities of gasoline, paint thinner or other solvents.

What Does It Do?

Named Krokodil, the Russian name for crocodile, this drug destroys human flesh from inside the body. Named for the green scales covering human skin, it eats away at the site of the injection, causing unsightly wounds to appear, along with the horrible skin affliction.

Flesh is dissolved from the inside of the body, usually eating from the bones outward, exposing the bones and leaving little or no flesh. Users can seldom be saved from death, except in cases where surgical intervention is done and use is discontinued. Amputation of damaged limbs is often the only way to save the life of the user, in order to remove the rapidly rotting flesh. Most users who continue to use the drug die within two years of first use.

Blood diseases are also another outcome of use of Krokodil. As blood vessels are destroyed by the drug, it enters the bloodstream and causes damage in various ways and can travel throughout the body to infest sites other than where the injection takes place. This rapidly increases its damaging effects.

Why are Addicts Using Krokodil?

Costs are low for this drug. Because of the shortage of heroin in certain European and Russian markets, as mentioned above, this drug presents addicts with a cheaper and more readily available alternative.

Another reason for using Krokodil is its faster assimilation into the body. Desomorphine is much more rapidly synthesized, making it virtually untraceable by methods used to test for drugs. Those who are likely to be randomly drug screened may turn to Krokodil because it is more difficult to detect with standard test methods.

What is the Popularity?

Numbers of cases found in the United States are low. This is believed to be due to the low cost and high grade heroin that is readily available in the US. This heroin comes from neighboring Mexico, where opium production has increased rapidly since the early 2000s.

There are thought to be only 3-4 cases of Krokodil in the US and one of those was an American teen who was diagnosed in Mexico, although she reportedly used the drug in the US before traveling there.

While reports vary widely on the number of Russian and European addicts who have been diagnosed with Krokodil use and outbreaks are reportedly dwindling, it was once believed to have been affecting upwards of 100,000 people. The numbers are hard to confirm, due to conflicting reports. Part of the reason is the Russian silence regarding treatment of addicts and the various diseases killing them. Reports are silenced and altered by their media, and medical statistics are unconfirmed.


CritCom. The Quietest Casualties: Russian Public Health Policies Cause Patient Deaths in Crimea. Retrieved online from:

Doheny, Kathleen. (9/30/2013). Krokodil Drug FAQ. Deadly Drug May Have Entered the US.Retrieved online from:

Ehrenfreund, Max. (10/07/2013). Washington Post. Homemade Heroin First Developed in Russia may have come to the US. Retrieved online from:

Newser. Teen’s Lesions Linked to Cheap Heroin Substitute. Retrieved online from:

Time. The Curse of the Crocodile: Russia’s Deadly Designer Drug. Retrieved online from:,8599,2078355,00.html

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

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