RICHMOND HEIGHTS, MO (KTVI)-- In December 2012, a 30-year-old man walked into the emergency room at SSM St. Mary's Health Center in Richmond Heights in need of help.
The patient, an admitted IV drug user, showed doctors his thigh covered with rotting skin. He had also lost a finger and told doctors that he injected himself with a homemade form of heroin called Krokodil made with codeine, gasoline, paint thinners and other chemicals.
Doctors say the man could no longer support his $300 a day heroin habit and wanted a cheap and potent alternative. The unnamed man was seen twice over a three month period and the Missouri case can potentially be the first documented case in the U.S.
St. Mary's Doctor Dany Thekkemuriyil and Doctor Unnikrishnan Pillai both say they were stunned by what they saw. The patient started using Krokodil eight months before he went to the hospital.
"We saw that his finger fell off and we saw a severe looking ulcer and sores on his thigh and it did really fit the picture of Krokodil," said Thekkemuriyil.
"The damage was more severe compared to a regular IV drug user," said Pillai.
The doctors decided to do research on Krokodil to alert the public. In February, the duo submitted an article to the highly regarded American Journal of Medicine saying that Krokodil was a menace to society.
"Our case is the first case that's been published in a recognized medical journal," said Thekkemuriyil.
There is still speculation over cases in Arizona, Utah, Ohio and Illinois over whether or not Krokodil exists in the U.S. simply because other forms of heroin are readily available. But doctors are confident in their research and findings.
"We want to keep it from spreading across our community. It eats people from the inside, it kills people from the inside literally," Pillai said.