Delve into the mind of an addict—and the self-loathing, often-fatal cycle that goes on inside it.
We’ve had the same message hammered into us since our D.A.R.E. class: Drugs are dangerous. Yet according to DrugFree.org, drug use in the United States continues to rise, with a reported 23.5 million Americans facing addiction. Last year, over 47,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, which continue to be the leading cause of unintentional death for Americans.
If you’re not an addict, it can be difficult to understand why people “choose” to do drugs. There have been hundreds of PSAs warning us of the dangers of drug use, so why exactly do people engage in such behaviors? What goes through their minds?
A six-minute film titled “Krokodil Requiem” is a haunting look at the inner workings of an addict’s mind and the self-loathing cycle endured every time they shoot up. Directed by Romain Demongeot and Sonia Presne, the surreal PSA artistically details the effects of krokodil—a cheaper, DIY form of heroin that started in Russia and is now making its terrifying way around the world.
Set in a Siberian graveyard, the film’s protagonist is a young man high on krokodil, also known as “cannibal heroin.” After he shoots up, he wanders though a snowy alternative reality, meeting ghosts, euphoria and demise along the way. We get a first-hand look at the drug’s physical effects, watching the user’s teeth rot and then fall out. As he bends to pick up his teeth, his skin develops reptilian patches—a side effect of the flesh-eating drug.
Chilling visual sequences aside, perhaps the most powerful part of the film are the voiceovers narrating how the man is consumed by the drug. The inner monologue layered over spine-tingling music shows the torturous thought cycle the man experiences when he’s high. It’s a mixture of suicidal thoughts and the euphoric feeling he can’t help but chase.
While wandering headless through the snowy forest, his blood-soaked body tries to find his brain, while the voiceover says, “In a moment, I’ll ascend to the canopy of heaven. This liberating desomorphine, eating away my thin bones, liberating a man from torture, sucking on his flesh or his skin.”
Krokodil, officially known as desomorphine, is packed with toxic substances such as paint thinner and red phosphorous from the tips of matches. The US recorded its first krokodil case in 2013, but the dangerous trend is escalating, especially in Europe. Demongeot wanted to present a new form of anti-drug PSA, using his own history of drug use as a reference, according to AdWeek.
Unlike the PSAs from D.A.R.E. class or the commercially-produced ads we see on TV, Demongeot and Presne’s work sticks with the viewer. The combination of art, storytelling and haunting, cold facts allow viewers to live inside the mind of an addict for six minutes.
Addicts find themselves in a cycle that’s not easy to control, and they begin to rely on drugs to make themselves feel human. Ultimately, the drug ends up controlling their lives and the downward spiral escalates.
Along with the release of the video, Demongeot also launched a nonprofit organization called Prévention-Krokodil to raise awareness for this deadly drug that’s already claimed too many lives.