A new dangerous opioid mixture which looks like concrete and has a street name of ‘gray death’ is being blamed for overdoses in Alabama, Georgia and Ohio.
A new and dangerous opioid combo with a street name of ‘gray death’ is the latest in the massive addiction crisis in the US.
Overdoses in Alabama, Georgia and Ohio are being blamed on the latest opioid mix of heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil and a synthetic opioid called U-47700. Carfentanil is tranquilizer for large animals like elephants.
The drug looks like concrete mix and varies in consistency from a hard and chunky to a fine powder.
“Gray death is one of the scariest combinations that I have ever seen in nearly 20 years of forensic chemistry drug analysis,” Deneen Kilcrease, manager of the chemistry section at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, said.
Gray death ingredients and their concentrations are unknown to users, making it particularly lethal, Kilcrease said.
Touching the powder puts users at risk, as Gray Death can be absorbed through the skin.
Last year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration listed U-47700 in the category of the most dangerous drugs it regulates, saying it was associated with dozens of fatalities, mostly in New York and North Carolina.
Gray death has a much higher potency than heroin, according to a bulletin issued by the Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. Users tend to inject, swallow, smoke or snort it.
50 overdose cases from Gray Death have been reported in the past three months in Georgia, most of the cases from the Atlanta area.
In Ohio, the coroner’s office serving the Cincinnati area says a similar compound has been coming in for months. The Ohio attorney general’s office has analyzed eight samples matching the gray death mixture from around the state.
The combo is just the latest in the trend of heroin mixed with other opioids, such as fentanyl.
Fentanyl-related deaths spiked so high in Ohio in 2015 that state health officials asked the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to send scientists to help address the problem.
The mixing of all the drugs poses a deadly risk to users and also challenges investigators trying to figure out what they’re dealing with this time around, said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
“Normally, we would be able to walk by one of our scientists, and say ‘What are you testing?’ and they’ll tell you heroin or ‘We’re testing fentanyl,'” DeWine said. “Now, sometimes they’re looking at it, at least initially, and say, ‘Well, we don’t know.'”
These deadly combinations are becoming a common theme in the ever escalating of the heroin and opioid epidemic. 33,000 fatal overdoses stemming directly from opioid related drug combinations in 2015, were reported by the US government. In Ohio, a record 3,050 people died of drug overdoses last year, most the result of opioid painkillers or their close cousin, heroin.
A DEA news release says: “Because substances like U-47700 are often manufactured in illicit labs overseas, the identity, purity and quantity are unknown, creating a ‘Russian roulette’ scenario for any user.”