Health authorities in western Mexico said Thursday they have detected a probable case of flesh lesions due to the drug Krokodil, often referred to as "the poor man's heroin."
The head of the council on addictions in the western state of Jalisco, Dr. Enrico Sotelo, said the patient is a 17-year-old woman who is a resident of Houston, Texas. She came to Mexico to visit the Pacific coast resort city of Puerto Vallarta, where she has relatives, in November. Soon after, she checked into a local health clinic for digestive problems, and it was there that doctors detected the flesh lesions.
Sotelo, who in accordance with privacy guidelines did not reveal the patient's name, said she told authorities she used the drug in Houston. Her current condition is unknown because she did not return to the health clinic there for any further treatment.
"She acquired this problem with Krokodil in Houston, not here in Puerto Vallarta," said Sotelo, who in any case has implemented an educational program to warn about the drug's ill effects.
Sotelo said a survey of rehab centers and clinics in Jalisco had revealed there were no other local cases. He said so far, Mexico has detected only two probable cases, the woman in Puerto Vallarta and another person in the border state of Baja California.
Diagnosis is usually based on the tell-tale lesions, because the body quickly metabolizes the drug's psychoactive agent, desomorphine. The drug was dubbed "krokodil" in Russia because of greenish, scaly skin lesions addicts develop, giving them the appearance of having crocodile skin.
A home-brewed heroin substitute popular in Russia, Krokodil is often concocted by cooking the prescription painkiller codeine along with gasoline, iodine, phosphorus and other chemicals.