Krokodil may be the scariest drug on the planet, but there's scant evidence so far that the flesh-eating heroin substitute has ever left Russia.
Why anyone would inject or otherwise consume krokodil is also uncertain, given that experts say it literally rots flesh off the bone.
News reports last year that the drug had turned up in the Phoenix metro area made headlines worldwide. Less-reported was that no toxicology test on the alleged krokodil users had been performed, meaning the cases weren't actually verified.
Having worked many meth-lab cases in the past, Phoenix police Sergeant Tommy Thompson believes the equipment found in conjunction with the suspected case of krokodil in Phoenix was designed not to manufacture krokodil, but to make and "wash" regular, old meth to make it more marketable. (See our story from earlier today about "blue meth.")
After he saw the equipment, Thompson says he doubted that a local poison-control center had encountered actual Krokodil, a drug that is reportedly being made and used in Russia.
Thompson checked on the situation, he tells New Times, and learned that while two people had claimed they had taken krokokil, Banner's Poison Control Center had never run a test to confirm the drug's presence in the users' blood.
In other words, the big news about krokodil in the Valley last September was all based on the word of a couple of junkies.
Thompson asked the department's crime lab a few weeks ago if they had a single, verified case of krokodil in the city, and the answer was "no."
He's not aware of any confirmed cases anywhere in the United States, either. A November article in the Daily Beast stated that in the six states rumored to have krokodil victims, not a single case was backed up with a blood test that confirmed the presence of desomorphine, the drug's scientific name.
Last month, a Mexican news outlet reported that a "confirmed" case of krokodil had been found in Nogales, just south of the border with Arizona. In articles about the find, though, a doctor was quoted who said he'd examined a patient with the symptoms of krokodil ingestion. But there's no mention of a toxicology test.
The alleged krokodil users in Phoenix may have believed they took the Russian drug, but Thompson says it's more likely their dealer promoted the substance as krokodil to make buyers think they were getting something special.
Shelly Mowrey, director of the anti-drug group Prevention Works AZ, says she agrees there have been no confirmed cases of krokodil in Arizona, and she believes the September warning by authorities may have been "alarmist."
"Are we afraid our kids are going to use it? No," she says, adding that her group's focus was on preventing the use of prescription drugs, marijuana and alcohol by young people.
Probably, only "serious addicts" would use krokodil -- a drug with serious side effects including skin lesions and death, she says.
Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.