Low Life

High Enough to Die

September 30, 2013

Multiple Pages
High Enough to Die

Ideally, a recreational drug shouldn’t make your flesh fall off your bones. Nor should it cause you to overheat and drop dead onto the dance floor. But we don’t live in a perfect world, now, do we?

Having come of age during the drug-soaked 1970s, I learned to cast a cynical eye toward drug-hysteria propaganda, especially since the hype rarely jibed with my personal experiences. As someone who’s probably smoked a minimum of 40 bales of marijuana, I stand here today to declare that films such as Reefer Madness severely exaggerate the deleterious effects of cannabis. As someone who was taught as a child that LSD causes you to freak out, rip your genitals off your body, and leap from a window to your death, my experience was that acid wasn’t nearly as dangerous as the four drunk guys who pick you up while you’re hitchhiking on acid. Even crack, meth, and PCP failed to live up to the tantalizing horror stories that led me to sample them in the first place. Ketamine, well, yeah, that was terrifying. Worst experience of my life. Believe whatever negative hype you hear about that one.

Still, I’m not sure whether street drugs are getting scarier or I’m just getting more easily scared. I always used to enjoy a ripping good national drug panic, and I almost always wound up trying the newly demonized drug as a result. But things such as age, fatherhood, a slowly evolving yet still highly delicate wisdom, and nine-hour brain surgery have caused me to ease up on the psychonautical recklessness. Hate to disappoint anyone, but I will not be wrestling with Krokodil or dancing with Molly.

“Ideally, a recreational drug shouldn’t make your flesh fall off your bones.”

The Web was ablaze last week with scare stories about a spate of young clubbers’ deaths from Molly overdoses. Far more ominous was the announcement that Krokodil, the repulsive, deadly, flesh-eating home-cooked opioid that first came yawning out of Siberia’s frozen womb a decade or so ago, has possibly reached America’s shores.

The term “Molly” is said to be derived from “molecule” or “molecular,” seeing as the drug is touted as chemically pure MDMA, the active ingredient in Ecstasy. The fact that “Molly” is also a feminine pronoun leads to unforgivably dorky editorial copy such as “Molly is not someone you want for a friend,” “That’s when Molly made her way onto the scene,” and “There is a new girl in town–and she can kill.”

Molly is thought to have killed at least four college students—one in Boston, two in New York, and one in DC—over a two-week span that ended in early September. The fact that the victims all seemed to be fans of electronic dance music should not be held against them.

One of the two New York victims died from pure MDMA. The other died from a mixture of MDMA and the stimulant methylone. In some cases, the reputedly “pure” MDMA in Molly capsules is even cut with adulterants such as crystal meth, rat poison, and baby powder.

Adverse effects even from pure, untainted MDMA can include fatal heart attacks, strokes, and seizures, and liver or kidney failure due to dehydration. Nevertheless, its glories have been touted by such chart-topping pop-music stalwarts as Rick Ross, Kanye West, and Miley “I Vow to Do Everything Within My Power to Humiliate My Father” Cyrus.

Some suggest the recent spate of Molly-related deaths, confined as it was to the Northeast, may simply be the result of a single bad batch. Thousands of earnest young electro-boppers have been using MDMA and its variants for decades now without adverse effects.

In contrast, Krokodil seems to kill nearly everyone who touches it. It is perhaps the most nihilistic drug ever devised.

One explanation for the etymology of “Krokodil” (Russian for “crocodile”) is that users wind up with green, scaly abscesses on their skin. Another is the fact that the compound chlorocodide is produced during the cooking process. What is not disputed is the fact that like a crocodile, this drug can literally eat you.

The untainted form of Krokodil is desomorphine, first synthesized in America in 1932 and intended to be a less addictive alternative to morphine. It is around ten times more potent than morphine and proved to be more addictive than morphine, so its pharmaceutical use was discontinued.

The home-cooked Krokodil whose vile vapors first started wafting from grim kitchen labs in Siberia is derived from codeine tablets that until last year were freely available without prescription in Russia. Using iodine, red phosphorus, and sometimes such spicy condiments as turpentine, gasoline, lighter fluid, and hydrochloric acid, the codeine is synthesized into desomorphine.

Due to desperation, carelessness, and basic chemical ineptitude, however, the distillation process rarely goes off without a hitch, and addicts wind up injecting trace elements of the more noxious chemicals into their bodies. Users quickly develop gangrene and abscesses. The acidic compounds gradually eat away at their flesh, often exposing raw muscle, dissolving porous bones, and ultimately requiring amputation. I’ve seen more than my fair share of “gore porn” over the years, but pictures of Krokodil addicts rotting alive are some of the most unpleasant images to ever scald my eyeballs. If you have a strong stomach and are willing to see something you can never “unsee,” click HERE or HERE. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

At the top end, one can expect to live up to three years after becoming addicted to the necrotic narcotic known as Krokodil. Others lowball the prognosis and give you less than a year once you’re hooked, which some say happens almost immediately after your first injection. Massive infections, organ failure, or a shutdown of your neurological and/or endocrine systems are what tend to finish the job, often peppered by other intravenous delights such as HIV and Hep-C.

But even the tiny minority of users that beat their addiction wind up essentially soulless and lobotomized shells of former humans—slurring, stumbling, vacant-eyed, and often missing a limb or three. Utterly useless for the rest of their lives.

According to one estimate, as many as a million Russians are currently addicted to Krokodil.

An Arizona poison-control center announced last week that it received two calls regarding what are thought to be the first two cases of Krokodil abuse in US history. Dr. Frank LoVecchio of Banner’s Poison Control Center says that he and his cohorts are “extremely frightened” at this development. The Center’s claims have not been independently verified, though, and there have been previous false Krokodil alarms in states such as Alabama and Arkansas.

Either way, it only seems like a matter of time before Krokodil bites America hard…especially when lurid articles and documentaries essentially tell you how to make the stuff at home.

So are the drugs really scarier these days, or are the kids maybe a little less hopeful? I’m not a kid, so I wouldn’t know.

What I have learned over the decades is that when the hangover lasts longer than the high, it’s time to stop. When the hangover involves necrosis and organ failure, it’s time to never start. Despite the wicked array of intoxicants I’ve imbibed over my life, the one line I’ve purposely never crossed is the hypodermic one. I’ve always felt that if you were so desperately unhappy that you needed to shoot drugs, you might as well grab a gun and shoot yourself.

I’ve known many people who make a point of constantly “partying” but are hardly celebrating, for often there’s nothing to celebrate in their lives. In many cases, they were only running away from pain or responsibility.

Exactly how good does that drug feel, how much basic sensory awareness does it blunt, that you wind up not caring whether your exposed tendons are hanging off your bones? More to the point, knowing that you’ll wind up with your tendons hanging off your bones, how deep must your emotional pain be that you’d take that first shot? Although I’m hardly Mr. Happy, I’ve never been so miserable that I’d risk becoming a walking carcass within a year. Guess I should be grateful for the small things.

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