EXCLUSIVE: The sisters who are the first proof that Russian flesh-eating 'cannibal' drug Krokodil IS in the U.S.
- Amber and Angie Neitzel, from Joliet, Illinois, say they have been using the potent alternative to heroin - which originated in Russia - for around a year
- The drug's devastating effect can clearly be seen by comparing pictures on their Facebook pages taken just a few months before they tried Krokodil
- They say they had no idea they were taking Krokodil - a mixture of codeine and toxic ingredients including gasoline and lighter fluid
- Leading drugs specialist Dr Abhin Singla, confirmed to MailOnline that the sisters had abused Krokodil after Angie was among five addicts he treated for the drug in his small hospital in the last few weeks
- Dr Singla is in no doubt because their telltale scaly sores - which gave the drug it's name - are different from other addicts
- Despite these gruesome reports and several more examples spanning the country in states including Utah and Arizona the DEA initially played down concerns, saying they are 'not seeing cases' of abuse of the substance
- Amber said: 'My boyfriend actually had maggots coming out of his leg. I know people don't want to hear stuff like that, but it is really happening out here'
These sisters are proof that the flesh-eating drug Krokodil is sweeping America and taking a terrible toll on addicts around the country, MailOnline can reveal today.
Amber and Angie Neitzel, from Joliet, Illinois, say they have been abusing the toxic cocktail - which originated in Russia - for around a year and a half, which means it has been on the streets of the U.S. for much longer than originally feared.
Angie's doctor, a drugs expert with 16 years experience, today told MailOnline that 'the effects from Krokodil are the worst I have ever seen'.
Amber and Angie agreed to pose for photographs that show just how the drug has laid waste to their bodies'.
WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT
Eaten alive: Amber Neitzel, 26, right, shows the wound on her leg from the drug Krokodil with her sister Angie Neitzel, 29, left, in Joliet, Illinois
'Proof': Doctors say the deep scaly wounds are different from those seen on normal heroin addicts. Angie, above, says she and her sister were unaware they were taking the drug - a mixture of codeine, lighter fluid and gasoline - originally from Russia
The photographs are even more shocking when compared to the healthy portraits of the sisters on their Facebook profiles, taken just a few months before they first tried the deadly drug.
They claim at first they had no idea they were taking Krokodil - a mixture of codeine and toxic ingredients including gasoline and lighter fluid - thinking it was normal heroin.
The sisters told MailOnline they preferred the new drug because it was a tenth of the price of normal heroin and also gave them an incredibly intense high.
But weeks into their use the pair started developing hideous lesions and sores on their legs and arms. The drug got it's name from the Russian for crocodile because it leaves addicts with scaly, gangrenous skin.
After months of abuse 29-year-old Angie's conditioned worsened to such an extent she was rushed to intensive care in the middle of the night with crippling stomach pains. She was convinced she was going to die and had to spend a week in Joliet's Presence Saint Joseph Hospital.
Rapid decline: Pictures of Amber, left, and Angie, right, posted on their Facebook pages in 2011 show just how fast their decline was and the terrible toll the flesh-eating drug had on their body
Warning: Amber and Angie have come forward to warn other users out there of the drug's devastating effects. Their doctor has also said every child needs to see them as a warning
She is still receiving after care from a leading drugs specialist Dr Abhin Singla, who has spoken out about the Krokodil problem after he saw five cases at his small town hospital in the last few weeks.
Dr Singla confirmed to MailOnline that the sisters are using Krokodil, after they signed medical release forms, freeing him to talk publicly about their condition.
Dr Singla said he knew these patients were all on the drug because of those distinctive scaly skin scores.
He told MailOnline today: 'The moment I saw Angie I knew what she had been taking. It was Krokodil without a shadow of a doubt. All the symptoms matched up 100 per cent.
Dr Abhin Singla, says he is in no doubt that the sisters have taken Krokodil after treating Angie
'I have friends in Russia and I have been following this for some time, I was extremely worried it would come over to the US and now it has.
Dr Singla said: 'The sores are very different to anything else, they go right down to the bone. It is extremely graphic and worse than anything I've seen before.
'That said, we have had a number of people who have come in over the last few days who fear they may have taken the drug, so the exposure is doing some real good.
'The effects are the worst I have ever seen from any drug in all my years of practise. It takes hold and does damage so fast.
'I expect to see a lot more in the coming months because I believe this will spread.
'I really don't know how it can be stopped, but it has to start with law enforcement. There have been a number of cases across the country now and something needs to be done.
'The people I have seen have not known what they were taking, but I believe some addicts will take it by choice despite the effects.
'There is an intense high and it's cheap, if people are desperate enough, they will use it.'
Despite these gruesome reports and several more examples spanning the country in states including Utah and Arizona the DEA initially played down concerns, saying they are 'not seeing cases' of abuse of the substance.
But on Friday, in light of these shocking examples in Joliet, Jack Riley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Chicago Field Division admitted the DEA was,'very concerned' and was trying to track down the source of the drug.
Amber, 26, is convinced Krokodil is now a major problem in the U.S.
She said: 'We have been using this stuff for around a year and a half, that's how long it has been in the country for.
Agony: Amber said: 'The sores on my elbow were so bad that the doctors thought they would have to cut part of the bone off, but luckily they managed to avoid that'
'We thought it was just normal heroin, in fact it was actually better because it was cheap and it gave a really intense high, much, much stronger than normal dope.
'But it didn't take long before we both started to get these horrible deep sores on our bodies, particularly our arms and legs.
'You can get marks and bleeding from shooting up heroin, but nothing like this. They are deep holes and the skin is just rotting away. It's hard to describe how revolting they are.
'As well as the scars I was completely sapped of energy, I could barely walk. I had no idea what it was, it was terrifying. I went to the doctors, but they just said it was infection from the needles. One said it might be septicemia, but I knew it was something more.
'THE DRUG THAT EATS JUNKIES'
Krokodil originated in Russia but has spread across the world at an alarming rate.
It has become so popular because it is three times cheaper to produce and buy than heroin and the intense high lasts for an hour and a half.
Dubbed 'the drug that eats junkies', it rots from the inside, causing such severe damage to tissue that users suffer from gangrenous sores which open all the way to the bone.
Continual use of Krokodil causes blood vessels to burst, leaving skin green and scaly among addicts eventually causing gangrene and their flesh to begin to rot.
Rabid use in Russia has caused up to 2.5 million people to register and seek treatment as addicts and the average life span for a user is only two to three years.
The condition can lead to limbs being amputated, but life expectancy for addicts is at the most two to three years, with the majority dying within a year.
The drug, whose name means 'crocodile' - reportedly a reference to the way it turns users' skin scaly - also rots their brains.
Krokodil is a sickening cocktail of over the counter painkillers, paint thinner, acid and phosphorus. In some cases, petrol is also added.
The resulting mixture is called desomorphine - a derivative of morphine - and is extremely addictive.
'I've been using for about ten years, so I'm not in good shape anyway, but this was a whole lot worse. There were points where I was so weak and I had such horrible bleeding I honestly thought I was going to die.'
The girls - both long-term addicts whose mother Kim was also a user - were getting the drug from their regular dealer in nearby Chicago and had no idea what they were really doing to their bodies.
Despite the horrendous side effects, they carried on using until about three weeks ago.
At that point one of their friends gave them a piece of paper with the name Krokodil written on it and told them to start researching it.
Amber said: 'We started looking into it and it all became clear. The moment we read about the symptoms, everything made sense and we knew what was wrong with us. The more I read, the more scared I was. I couldn't bear to read too much at a time. I was convinced I was going to die.
'I actually had a $100 dollar bag of the stuff and the moment I realised what it really was I chucked it away. As an addict, that is something you would never ever do.'
Angie's conditioned took a turn for the worse ten days ago and she had to check in to Presence St Joseph Hospital.
She said: 'I woke up in the middle of the night with the most intense stomach pains I had ever experienced. I sat bolt upright in agony.
'I begged Amber to take me to hospital and ended up staying in there for a week with dozens of tubes sticking out of me. One was about 15 inches long.
'The sores on my elbow were so bad that the doctors thought they would have to cut part of the bone off, but luckily they managed to avoid that.
Official problem: The DEA were apparently flat-footed in their response to this foreign scourge, but are now urgently seeking the source of the drug after so many reports across the States
'I got out four days ago and I'm clean, but I know this is going to be a long battle. Every day is a struggle, even walking ten yards is agony. I am in constant pain and I need to redress my sores every eight hours so they don't become infected. When you live like us that is really hard.'
Amber says she knows about seven other people who have been badly effected by Krokodil in this small corner of Illinois.
The mother-of-two said: 'This is a really bad problem. This drug is real, it rots you away from the inside and attacks your organs. I have been using for 18 months and I know it's done some permanent damage. I will be lucky if I live another ten years from now.
'My boyfriend actually had maggots coming out of his leg. I know people don't want to hear stuff like that, but it is really happening out here'
'Anyone who thinks it isn't widespread is wrong. I know at least seven others who have got sick from it and that's just around Joliet.
'My boyfriend actually had maggots coming out of his leg. I know people don't want to hear stuff like that, but it is really happening out here.
'Something needs to be done because as long as dope is cheap and strong, addicts will use it no matter the cost to their bodies and this stuff will spread.'
Weeping sores: Angie shows MailOnline the devastating effects of the drug on her leg
Death sentence: Amber said: 'If you want to find a way to kill yourself, this is the way to do it'
Because of his deep concerns he will be relieved by the DEA's apparent change of attitude towards Krokodil.
On Friday representative Jack Riley released a statement saying: 'DEA is very concerned about the recent news that several patients who were treated at Presence St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet had symptoms consistent with the use of the drug Krokodil.
'Our agents and task force officers are on the street canvassing the area, and trying to track down any leads. We want to be pro-active and get out ahead of the curve on this, but until we can get our hands on the drugs and people who are trafficking in it, we won’t know the extent of what we’re dealing with.
'What we do know is that if this is Krokodil, it is extremely dangerous and we’re doing everything within our authority to stop it.'
Amber, for one, hopes they succeed. She said: 'They need to find where this stuff is coming from and stop it. If my story makes a few people think twice then maybe some good has come out of this situation.'
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