A lethal new drug dubbed “gray death” by authorities that is dangerous to even touch with gloves is being eyed in overdose cases across Georgia, Alabama and Ohio. Investigators said the high-potency cocktail — which is comprised of heroin, fentanyl, the elephant tranquilizer carfentanil, and a synthetic opioid called U-47700 — can kill users with a single dose.
“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, told The Associated Press.
A spokeswoman for the agency told the Associated Press that they’ve seen 50 overdoses cases involving gray death over the past three months. Users can inject, swallow, smoke or snort the drug, which varies in consistency and looks like a concrete mixture.
In Alabama, where authorities said they see an evolution of drug abuse and addiction across the state, they are trying to send a clear message about the danger of using gray death before it becomes widely available.
“This is not a drug that you use to get high — if you put this drug into your body you will die, it will kill you,” Clay Hammac, Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task commander, told ABC 33 40.
At the retail end of the global heroin trade, local heroin rings repackage pounds of the drug into single-serve doses and push the product to its final destination: the user. From there, the next stop is often a hospital emergency room or a morgue, as an epidemic of heroin-related overdoses and deaths continues its creep across the country.
In Virginia, an intensive crackdown on heroin rings has shed new light on the relationship between drug dealer and user, providing insight into why that last link in the heroin trafficking chain has become so deadly.
“What we hear from users is that quality is important, and that the reputation of a dealer is rated on a scale of one to 10,” said Marc Birnbaum, assistant attorney general for Virginia.
In a competition for higher ratings, some dealers began offering heroin with varying potencies — from just strong enough to stave off withdrawal symptoms to doses laced with powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
“We’ve talked to users whose dealers will say, ‘I got the stuff that will keep you from getting sick, and I got the stuff that will kill you,’ ” Birnbaum said. “It’s a tragic situation because, for the most part, they want the most potent dose.”
Heroin use – which has been at the epicenter of a ruthless and relentless opioid epidemic sweeping the country – has increased fivefold over a decade, and dependence on the drug has tripled, researchers say.
REISTERSTOWN, Md. – Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday escalated his administration’s response to the opioid-addiction crisis, declaring a state of emergency and committing an additional $50 million over the next five years to beef up enforcement, prevention and treatment services.
The Maryland Chapter of Drug-Free World visited the children and young adults of the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club of Franklin Square of Baltimore in March 2107. The children watched a documentary about the dangers of drugs narrated by former drug addicts. There was lively discussion about the things that can happen to a person when they start taking drugs and how quickly one can become addicted.
After the discussion the students signed a Pledge to live a drug free life, to encourage their friends and family members not to take drugs and to help educate others about the dangers of taking drugs. Each student received several Truth About Drugs booklets to read and to distribute to friends.
With the nation in the grip of an opioid epidemic that has claimed more than 200,000 lives, the U.S. medical establishment is turning away from painkillers. Top health officials are discouraging primary care doctors from prescribing them for chronic pain, saying there is no proof they work long-term and substantial evidence they put patients at risk.
The American heroin epidemic has become more dangerous, as reports of heroin laced with carfentanil are being reported throughout the country.
Carfentanil is the most potent opioid used commercially, 10,000 times stronger than morphine. It is a version of fentanyl, the painkiller that most recently made headlines with its role in the death of pop star Prince.
Many users may not know they are even taking the drug, officials have said. In July, officials in Hamilton County, Ohio, issued a public health warning (PDF) after seeing 35 overdoses, including six deaths, in a three-day period.
Virginia’s emergency rooms are seeing a dramatic spike this year in the number of patients seeking treatment for heroin overdoses, state data shows.
The state’s emergency departments reported nearly 500 visits in the first four months of 2016 with unintentional heroin overdose as the primary complaint or diagnosis at discharge, according to data provided to The Associated Press data the Virginia Department of Health.
That’s roughly two-and-a half times the number of emergency department visits for heroin overdoses reported over the same period last year.
The actual number of emergency room trips caused by heroin overdoses is likely much higher than reported because patients often will say only that they are suffering from overdose and won’t specify what drug they were using, said Emily Stephens, enhanced surveillance analyst for the Virginia Department of Health.