Joliet sisters: Heroin-like drug 'Krokodil' eats flesh and destroys skin, lives

October 13, 2013 (JOLIET, Ill.)

Amber Neitzel of Joliet says she first noticed the wounds on her skin 18 months ago.

"It almost starts like a burn from a cigarette," she said. "It starts purple and then goes into a blister after five or six days."

Amber Neitzel and her sister Angie Neitzel are heroin addicts. They're also two of the five confirmed victims of a heroin-like flesh eating drug called Krokodil, or crocodile, reported by St. Joseph Medical Center last week, the first confirmed cases in Illinois.

"I'm scared to death right now. I can barely leave my house," Angie Neitzel said.

Doctors say crocodile rots the skin from the inside out causing gangrene. Angela's was so advanced that she had to undergo emergency surgery last week to save her legs.

"I have to go to an infectious disease doctor, decide how much it's progressed and wind up doing skin grafts," Angie Neitzel said.

Ironically, it was their mother, a recovering addict, who brought the disease to their attention. While she is not one of the diagnosed cases, she believes she was also infected, after unknowingly injecting the drug sometime last May.

'"Four weeks later I went to the hospital," she said. "They surgically removed it, but at the time they didn't know it was crocodile. They just thought I messed with a dirty needle or something like that."

All three women insist they paid for heroin and never knew they got crocodile in its place. They have come forward to use their story as a wakeup call for other addicts.

"If it touches one person at least and gets one person clean that's what I hope happens so bad," Amber Neitzel said.

The sisters' motivation is a strong one. Each has three children they've lost custody of.

The women's motivation to clean up is strong. They've both been told if they continue using they will likely be dead within one to three years.

Both women have three children they've lost custody of. The children are still in the family, innocent victims of their mother's addiction and now, their devastating disease.

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