By Stephanie Price
Centegra Health System may be treating the first case of the flesh-eating street drug "Krokodil" in McHenry County.
Centegra is warning residents about the illegal narcotic, pronounced "crocodile," an opiod that causes a user's skin to turn scaly and green, according to a news release issued by Michelle Green, Centegra's senior public relations coordinator.
Eventually, the drug user's skin can rot and fall off, causing life-threatening damage. The drug can be made from commonly found ingredients including gasoline, Green stated in the release.
The drug mix started in Russia as a cheaper alternative to heroin. The first case of the drug was found in the United States about two weeks ago in Arizona. Last week, three Krokodil cases turned up in Joliet.
“This drug is a serious concern because it is often injected by people who use intravenous heroin,” said Dr. Paul Berkowitz, a psychiatrist with Centegra Physician Care.
“The patient we are treating is an IV drug user who has large skin lesions that have led us to believe the drug that was injected is Krokodil.”
Berkowitz and his fellow physician colleagues are concerned, he said, because there is growing abuse of IV heroin in McHenry County. Since Krokodil is less expensive than heroin, he fears hospitals may see more patients who have serious injuries from the drug.
“People should know that if they use this drug they are placing themselves at serious risk of injury and even death,” Berkowitz said.
“The symptoms are obvious. If a person has open lesions, or sees the characteristic scaly and green skin changes he should seek treatment immediately. By using this drug people are injecting a poison.”
To combat McHenry County’s ongoing heroin problem, Centegra Health System and other agencies are working together to curb the drug’s use in the county, Green said.
"The McHenry County Substance Abuse Coalition invites the public to become part of the solution," Green said. "A community meeting will be conducted from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, in the McHenry County College auditorium."
Since last summer, the McHenry County Sheriff’s Police Narcotics Division and Intelligence Led Policing Unit have launched 34 separate heroin investigations, netting 25 arrests and the seizure of more than 75 grams of heroin, Green said.
"Chicago’s gang-related drug trade drives McHenry County’s heroin problem and it has been an increasing problem the past three years, according to police," Green said. "There were 52 heroin deaths in McHenry County from 2009 to 2012, according to the McHenry County Coroner’s Office."