When You're Covering the Bogus Krokodil Epidemic, Even Rumors of a Rumor Will Do

KTVI, St. LouisKTVI, St. LouisIn my Forbes column this week, I explain how the bogus story of a U.S. krokodil outbreak was born and why it will not die. I do not address every alleged krokodil sighting in detail because some of the reports are so laughably lacking in evidence that they are not worth the trouble. References to the drug's alleged appearance in Utah stand out in that regard. Here is how that totally unfounded claim seems to have arisen.

On October 6, inspired by unsubstantiated reports of krokodil-related symptoms in neighboring Arizona, the Deseret Morning News ran a story under the headline "DEA Fears Flesh-Eating Drug Could End Up in Utah." Reporter Pat Reavy asked Sue Thomas, supervisory special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration in Utah, about krokodil, and Thomas responded with an over-the-top recital of potential side effects that was partly true but mixed up with considerable nonsense (such as her incredible claim that "methamphetamine and heroin are guaranteed to give you a slow, painful death"). Thomas never said there was any krokodil in Utah—just that it would be worrisome if there were. "As of Friday," Reavy wrote, "there had been no confirmed cases of Krokodil in Utah."

Three days later, Abhin Singla, a physician in Joliet, Illinois, who claimed to have encountered krokodil users there, told the Southtown Star, "Last week the first cases in this country were reported in Arizona and Utah, and I'm startled how quickly it came east to our area." During the next few days, that claim about Utah was picked up by other news outlets. On October 12 the Fox station in Cleveland reported that "the first U.S. case [sic] appeared in Utah and Arizona a few weeks ago." On October 14 the Fox station in St. Louis referred to "reports" of krokodil use "in Arizona, Utah, Nevada and most recently in the Chicago area." Even the Chicago Tribune, which has covered this story with admirable skepticism, mentioned "unconfirmed cases of krokodil use in Arizona, Utah and Nevada." The Lawton Constitution, an Oklahoma paper, said "reports of the drug's usage in Utah and Illinois have recently surfaced."

Back in Utah, having seen such reports of reports, The Salt Lake Tribune wondered, "Is flesh-eating krokodil in Utah?" The answer, according to the headline: "Hard to be sure." In that October 18 story, Matthew Piper noted that "reports in recent weeks have obliquely mentioned 'cases in Utah.'" He added:

On Thursday local TV news outlets reported that Murray’s Intermountain Medical Center saw two patients who seemed to display the synthetic opiate’s trademark side effects. But IMC spokesman Jess Gomez could only say that those cases—it is unknown when they occurred—"fit some of the clinical criteria." If they were the result of krokodil, they were minor reactions, and there is no sure test.

Actually, there is a sure test: If someone has recently injected krokodil, they should have desomorphine in their blood. But to date no desomorphine has been detected in any blood or drug samples. There is nevertheless an impressive list of a dozen or so states where krokodil has been reported (or reported to have been reported). Including Utah.

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  • waffles||

    Anyone down for some Jenkem?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    This just in: Journalists are lazy.

  • Tim||

    Heard about the new drug that turns your kids gay? Film at 11.

  • Tommy_Grand||

    stop being a denier. There is a consensus. CON-SEN-SUS!

  • ||

    Never let a good drug panic go to waste.

  • Wandering Texan||

    I prefer the line about repeating a lie until its the truth.

  • joliyana||

    Start working at home with GOOGLE!YAHOO. ABCNEWS AND MORE GLOBAL SITES... It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this - 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour.for a work detail go to home tab.... I work through this link,

    http://WWW.CASH46.COM

  • Being Waterboarded||

    Writing news stories about drug abuse?

  • Brett L||

    Yeah. I have a former colleague who told me that her new job in the CDC involved testing a bunch of the western states' cases. No desomorphine. Every result her epidemiology group saw were routine infections from dirty people using dirty needles.

  • Zeb||

    Nasty open wounds are hardly a new thing among street junkies.

  • Zeb||

    "methamphetamine and heroin are guaranteed to give you a slow, painful death"

    I don't know about meth, but heroin is a lot more likely to give you a slow and very comfortable death.

  • John Galt||

    The never ending saga of reefer madness.

  • Zeb||

    At least reefer was and is a popular drug. This is just completely imagined.

  • John Galt||

    Imagined or nowhere near as harmful as claimed. Hard to tell when dealing with liars. It's impossible to trust anything they have to say.

  • Almanian!||

    You know what we need? A lock-in in the Rec Center.

    /J-j-j-j-j-jimmy V-v-v-v-v-ollmer - wow, what a t-t-t-t-terrific audience

  • pronomian||

    Krokodil is real however the news here is not that this drug has had bogus reporting on where it has shown up. Drugs like this, and spice, just to name two, are the result of prohibition. Designer drugs which people change a molecular element to avoid illegality is the issue. Heroine is expensive in Russia, people turn to Krododil because of the cost.

  • Nooge.||

    In Russia, heroin does you.

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