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Dangerous flesh-eating drug may have arrived in county

Centegra may be treating first "krokodil" case

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 6:21 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013 3:58 p.m. CDT

A nasty flesh-eating street drug may have made its way to McHenry County, experts warn.

Centegra Health System advised Tuesday that it may be treating someone who injected themselves with "krokodil," a heroin substitute of Russian origin. The drug is a toxic cocktail of opiates like codeine and substances such as gasoline and lighter fluid.

The drug causes users' skin to turn scaly and green, hence the name, which is the Russian word for crocodile. The skin subsequently rots and falls off.

Centegra said in a statement that it is treating an intravenous drug user who has large skin lesions. Because the drug is cheaper than heroin, and heroin use is on the rise in McHenry County, officials fear local hospitals could see more krokodil victims.

"It's more lethal, it's cheaper, it's a stronger high. It just won't be a public health problem, but it will be a public health epidemic," McHenry County Undersheriff Andy Zinke said.

The announcement of what could be the county's first documented case of krokodil abuse came a day before county agencies plan to take part in a community forum to discuss the prevalence of heroin in McHenry County and how the community plans to respond.

Heroin accounted for 52 of the 122 overdose deaths reported by the McHenry County Coroner's Office between 2009 and 2012. The 16 heroin deaths reported in 2012 was the highest annual total in four years.

The sheriff’s office formed a task force last spring to combat the rising heroin problem, composed of law enforcement, criminal justice and health service officials. Heroin made up most of the 16 arrests the sheriff's office and U.S. Marshals made several weeks ago in a one-day warrant roundup of street-level drug dealers.

The heroin forum starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the McHenry County College auditorium, 8900 Route 14, Crystal Lake.

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