The killer-drug known locally as "Crocodile" is fast becoming as widely used as heroin in Russia.
The narcotic is based on codeine, easily extracted from cheap medicines available in every drugstore. The name “Crocodile” comes from the drug’s deadly effect: its users' skin turns scaly before falling off. Injecting the lethal cocktail will rot a users' flesh in months; most of them die within three years.
According to the Federal drugs agency, over 250,000 Russians are now codeine abusers – this is almost as much as the number of heroin users in the country.
Aware of the problem and eager to stop the epidemic, Russian authorities signed a law prohibiting selling codeine-containing medications without prescription.
Although the law will come into force on June 1st, 2012, many Russian regions have already banned the free sale of the drugs in question. As a result, local drug abuse went down by almost 50 per cent.
Drug users, meanwhile, are raiding neighbouring regions, where they can still buy codeine without restrictions.
While the Federal drugs agency is encouraging all Russian regions to join the boycott, ordinary consumers are arguing the new law will significantly complicate their lives – instead of simply buying much-needed cough medicines or painkillers, they will have to waste their time going to a doctor.
“The new law does not automatically mean that medical help will become more available,” member of heath services watchdog, Aleksey Starchenko, told RIA-Novosti. “If all people will start going to public hospitals, the hospitals will be overcrowded.”