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Ever hear of Baltushka? If not, consider that a good thing.

Earlier this year, we shared a bit about Krokodil—the Russian opioid concoction that causes horrific effects on the body and reduces the life expectancy of the user to no more than two years.

What Krokodil is to heroine, Baltushka is to meth. You know something is incomprehensibly bad when it is “the improvised/poor man’s substitute for meth.”

As a forewarning, just as with Krokodil, we strongly urge readers not to run a Google search for Baltushka. Although it does not have quite the horrifying physical effects of Krokodil, the pictures are horrifying in a completely different way; they are heartbreaking.

The drug first made its appearance on the streets of the Ukrainian city of Makeevka in 2004 among street children—generally orphans who would rather spend a short life high than a longer life.

Baltushka comes from the Russian word for both swirling and mixing the ingredients, as well as the verb meaning “to babble.”

Which is a very appropriate name, sadly, due to the mental and physical impairment that results in using Baltushka. In as little as three to four months, users can lose cognitive function (becoming incapable of basic math and limited vocabulary), loss of balance, loss of sensation, and the onset of Parkinson’s-like symptoms, including involuntary twitching and a state some have described as “constant, mild seizures.”

Physically, a typical body appearance includes a bloated face, abnormally shiny skin, pimples, bloated and slightly closed eyes, and blisters near the mouth.

Keep in mind; that is after three-to-four months of use.

The long-term effects, meanwhile, are considered those that occur after just six-to-eight months of regular use. The effects mentioned above become both more severe, and permanent. There can be a complete inability to communicate verbally. Partial paralysis is not uncommon.

Not surprisingly, there is little data on what happens to those using beyond six months, as either death or paralysis prevents further use. Part of this is also due to the total marginalization of children who live on the streets in Ukraine, and the basically non-existent treatment options in that and other former Soviet countries.

Drug addiction is a powerful force. It can drive us to the darkest depths where rationality and basic common sense are meaningless fantasies. The here and now are the only things that have any substance. We in recovery ascribe a new perspective to that truth. We see that every day is a new opportunity to do differently what we had in the past—that a change today from our present desperate situation is the beginning of a new path.

For the addict, it is nothing more than a reliving of the moments, minutes, hours, and days before. It is doing the exact same thing, expecting that next hit to be the one that makes us okay—if only for a little while.

We, however, are fortunate. We have places to go to get help, and we find that if we are truly serious about changing our ways, we have a society largely willing to accept us again.

Not everyone is so lucky.

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