Flesh-eating drug started like a burn, victim says
STAFF REPORTS October 14, 2013 10:38PM
Updated: November 16, 2013 6:24AM
One of the first Chicago-area victims of a flesh-eating drug said the symptoms began like a cigarette burn.
“It starts purple and then goes into a blister after five or six days,” Amber Neitzel told WLS-TV.
Amber Neitzel and her sister, Angie, confirmed that they are two of the five people who were treated at St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet after using “crocodile,” a heroin knock-off drug that doctors say rots the skin from the inside out.
All five patients who were reportedly stricken after injecting the drug, also known as “krokodil,” have been released from Saint Joseph, Dr. Abhin Singla, director of addiction services at the hospital, told the Herald-News on Monday.
Singla said three women and two men who thought they were injecting heroin into their bodies sought treatment for their wounds last week, Singla said. He declined to disclose personal information about his patients, including their identities, but the Neitzel sisters said they were two of the patients.
Crocodile started being manufactured about a decade ago in Russia, where heroin is harder to find. Codeine tablets are mixed with gasoline, paint thinner, butane and other chemicals to create an injectable drug.
The synthetic opiate rots the skin from the inside out, Singla said. Gangrene develops and gives the dead skin a scaly green appearance, which provided the name of the drug.
The sisters told WLS-TV that they are heroin addicts and thought they were buying heroin. They said they didn’t know they got crocodile instead. Their mother, Kimberly Neitzel, herself a recovering addict, first pointed out the effects of the drug on her daughters.
The women said they were coming forward to warn others of the drug’s effects.
Contributing: Cindy Wojdyla Cain