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Emerging drug in Ukraine: “Crocodile” desomorphine

Pavlo Smyrnov

P. Smyrnov, S. Tatyana. International HIV/AIDS Alliance, Ukraine

Background: During a series of interviews with drug users conducted in July 2011 in Kyiv, Ukraine, many respondents mentioned desomorphine as a new popular street drug. Street desomorphine (named “crocodile”) is prepared by users from codeine-containing pills, red phosphorus, and iodine. This drug is very popular in neighboring Russia, but fewer reports on its use were received from Ukraine. We suggested that this drug already is being used by a considerable number of drug users in Ukraine, but this information was missed in the Behavior Surveillance Survey (BSS) since it is hidden under the general opiate category in the standard questionnaire.

Methods: To measure how prevalent this drug is among injecting drug users in Kyiv, as well as other cities of Ukraine, a particular question was included in the BSS conducted among injecting drug users in 26 cities in Ukraine. The prevalence of crocodile was calculated, and basic statistical analysis was conducted to understand how its use correlates with respondents’ sex and age, history of drug use, and other factors.

Results: The reported prevalence of the use of crocodile in the past 12 months was as high as 35.6%. At the same time, only 7 cities out of 26 reported use above an average of 5.6%. Its use correlated with age, being most popular among the 20–24 age group, and level of education.

Conclusion: Analysis of data from the BSS conducted in Ukraine in 2011 suggests that in the drug scene in Ukraine, crocodile has become a popular drug of choice; especially in some cities, it is important to monitor its use and adjust harm reduction interventions accordingly.

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