A Ghastly Price For Success: Krokodil

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

Related Post Roulette

17 Responses

  1. E.D. Kain says:

    Wow. Just…wow.Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    They added wood alcohol to booze during prohibition.

    People drank it anyway.Report

  3. Jesus. This sounds like something out of “True Blood.”Report

  4. Jason Kuznicki says:

    Going by previous media panics, there have probably been a few truly horrible incidents, a lot of bogus ones drummed up by attention seekers, and a great deal of exaggeration all around.

    I’m far from certain on this, of course, but if marijuana, LSD, PCP, and crack taught us anything, it’s that the media have a way of amping up the danger whenever a new drug comes to their attention.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      To be sure, media alarmism is a real phenomenon that often chronicles unreal threats. Let’s assume, arguendo, that Krokodil’s ghoulish effects and the public health danger it causes have been hugely exaggerated.

      That does not respond to the argument that interdiction-based antidrug policies condemn the government to forever play a game of “substance interdiction whack-a-mole” and that some blend of demand reduction and decriminalization is the only way to actually reduce drug use.Report

  5. Ryan Davidson says:

    While I’m pretty negative about the War on Drugs… stuff like this gives me pause.

    Here’s the thing: booze is legal. Has been for ages. If people want to get off their asses on a readily available substance, hell, they can do that.

    So why do people even want to do narcotics? The effects are presumably different, but is anyone going to seriously argue that whatever drives people to want to do them is of a different species entirely from what drives people to drink?

    Because if it isn’t, then the idea that people will stay away from stuff like meth and Krokodil if better stuff is available seems… wrong somehow. I mean, pot is already plenty legal, but people want cocaine and heroin all the same. Even that stuff is better for you and more readily available than meth, but rednecks still cook that up.

    And if the availability of “softer” stuff doesn’t stop people from going after the “harder” stuff, stuff which is manifestly dangerous and impossible to use safely… maybe we should outlaw the softer stuff too?

    It’s not an awesome argument, but it doesn’t strike me as being invalid either. Enlighten me.Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Ryan Davidson says:

      So why do people even want to do narcotics? The effects are presumably different, but is anyone going to seriously argue that whatever drives people to want to do them is of a different species entirely from what drives people to drink?

      Everyone’s body chemistry is different. I’ve seen addiction experts claim that if you gave a randomly selected group of people heroin, some would absolutely hate it, some would be indifferent, some would love it, and some would become lifelong addicts. But there’s no telling who’s who.

      From what little I know of own body chemistry, I know that I enjoy alcohol a lot, but something within me shuts off long before the point of a debilitating addiction. I’m a drinker, but it’s not going to escalate much past where I am right now. I’ve tried pot and even used it quasi-regularly for a few months, but I’m not terribly interested in it, because by the end of that time, it had lost most of its appeal to me. I have no idea what heroin would do to me, and I’m not interested in finding out.

      My reactions though aren’t going to be what other people necessarily have. Everyone’s mileage varies.Report

    • North in reply to Ryan Davidson says:

      Well first off your assertions are kindof soft, pot is far from legal for instance. Second of all no one advocates that legalizing the base line drugs is guaranteed to cause people to stop using the more destructive ones but there is some very powerful logic in that line of thought. When considering things like crack or krokodil the irrefutable fact stands that both of these poisonous substances were born from the war on drugs. In the absence of the market pressures generated by the War on Drugs neither of them would have come to be. People do not turn to toxic alternatives because of some all consuming interest in exploring chemistry. Crack was produced, for instance, because the government crackdown on cocaine caused a demand for a means of turning a diminished cocaine supply into a product affordable to junkies on the street.

      So the termination of prohibition or the war on drugs first of all would prevent the emergence of future crack’s or krokodil due to lack of demand. Junkies are also, at least on some basic level, still rational actors. They will go for the cheapest and safest means of getting the highs they crave. In the absense of the war on drugs, therefore, many would slide down off of some of the more toxic derivative drugs to the more pure core intoxicants. Others would be forced off the drugs as the wilting demand caused the supply to whither: no pharmacy company would be willing to produce crack or krokodil for instance but no illegal producer could produce krokodil or crack at a price/risk level that’d make it competative with legal normal drugs.Report

  6. ClockworkOrange says:

    >> Crack was produced, for instance, because the government crackdown on cocaine caused a demand for a means of turning a diminished cocaine supply into a product affordable to junkies on the street.

    This is a common myth. Cocaine was almost freely available at the time as supplies were at all time highs. Crack was created due to cocaine prices falling (that whole supply/demand thing), as well as to cater for the demands of really poor and minorities, since cocaine was seen as more of an upper class/expensive habit type.


    “In the early 1980s, the majority of cocaine being shipped to the United States was coming through the Bahamas. Soon there was a huge glut of cocaine powder in these islands which caused the price to drop by as much as 80 percent. Faced with dropping prices for their illegal product, drug dealers made a shrewd marketing decision to convert the powder to “crack,” a smokeable form of cocaine. It was cheap, simple to produce, ready to use, and highly profitable for dealers to develop. As early as 1981, reports of crack appeared in Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston, and in the Caribbean.

    At this time, powder cocaine was available on the street at an average of 55 percent purity for $100 per gram, and crack was sold at average purity levels of 80-plus percent for the same price. In some major cities, such as New York, Detroit, and Philadelphia, one dosage unit of crack could be obtained for as little as $2.50. Never before had any form of cocaine been available at such low prices and at such high purity. More important from a marketing standpoint, it produced an instant high and its users became addicted in a very short time. Eventually, Caribbean immigrants taught young people in Miami how to produce crack, and they in turn went into business in the United States.”Report

  7. ClockworkOrange says:

    As to the original post:

    >> Apparently, heroin has become next to impossible to obtain in Russia

    Well, heroin (or any kind of illegal substance) was next to impossible to obtain in former USSR either – I can attest to that as a former resident. So how come krokodil, etc wasn’t present then?Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to ClockworkOrange says:

      Having never attempted to purchase narcotics in either present-day Russia or the Soviet Union, I must confess a lack of personal knowledge here.

      There are claims that krokodil began as a drug of availability in Siberia; presumably the mules didn’t make it that far out there with drugs of higher quality and safety margins, so people made do with what they could get. I am well aware of the irony of calling heroin a “safe” drug by comparison with this stuff.Report

  8. DensityDuck says:

    On the one hand, I agree that the lack of legal intoxicants leads to home-grown stuff that has some nasty side effects. Wood-alcohol moonshine, sort of thing.

    On the other hand, this particular situation kind of sounds like a self-limiting problem. If you have someone who is so crazy about getting high that they’ll inject industrial solvent under their skin…I mean, what exactly are you gonna do to stop that person doing self-destructive things? You’re getting to the point where you’d have to imprison them to keep them from sniffing paint or drinking Drano (and even then it would only last until they discovered hypoxic euphoria and killed themselves by holding their breath.)Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to DensityDuck says:

      It is possible to bring some of these people back to reality.

      It is very expensive, and it fails a lot. There are utilitarian arguments against making this a public policy issue.

      But it does happen.Report

      • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

        You could also make available to them safe, pure, standardized doses of heroin. Far from an ideal life, but it sure beats dying. Doesn’t it?Report

        • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

          From a utility standpoint, it makes it better for those of us who might be affected by those crazy addicts when they don’t have their drugs. Greater society win!

          In fact, the greater society probably gets better ROI on this than under a treatment scenario, ’cause it’s cheaper.

          I’m not going to weigh on on whether it is better for the addict or not. I’m not qualified to judge the value of your existence or lack thereof in such a case.

          If only 1 addict in 4 comes back from the brink, is the difference between “try and treat them” or “put them in a commune and let them take drugs until they die” better or not… for the addicts?

          Let’s say I’m uncomfortable with the idea of subsidizing this approach.

          If we agree that paternalism is something that we want to downplay, overall (choosing between one set of laws and another, we try to choose the least paternal)… then it seems to be that bad parenting is highly objectionable.Report

  9. Patrick Cahalan says:

    Change “(Drug) is a gateway drug” to “(Drug) is a barrier drug”.

    Beer keeps some people from smoking dope. Pot keeps some people from trying coke. Coke keeps some people away from smack. Smack keeps pretty much everybody away from shit like this, because smack will probably kill you before you graduate.

    People with addictive personalities slide down until they stop at whatever scratches their itch. If you take away the stop, they just slide farther down.Report