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‘Gray Death’ – The Latest Deadly Heroin Mixture
If someone you care about is abusing street-level opioids like heroin, this information could save their life. A new heroin-based mixture of opioids, nicknamed ‘the gray death’ by investigators, is causing record overdoses and deaths across several states, authorities say.
Gray death is so unexpectedly powerful that even experienced drug users are overdosing and dying in record numbers. Street dealers often can’t tell their customers what’s in the bag. They get it from the higher-ups, they peddle it, and after people start dying they find out what they’ve been selling that’s killing their customers.
Gray death is the latest, and the deadliest yet, in a recent trend of mixing heroin with other opioids, usually fentanyl and fentanyl-related drugs. These mixtures are blamed for killing thousands of people nationwide over the past two or three years.
Gray death is a mixture of heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil (an enormously potent elephant tranquilizer) and a synthetic opioid called U-47700. The mixture is responsible for so many overdose deaths in Alabama, Georgia and Ohio that drug investigators, stunned by how lethal it is, gave it the nickname, base on its color. Dozens of fatalities, mostly in New York and North Carolina, are related to variations of the formula, but it’s being seen across the country.
Looks like concrete mix
Gray death varies in both proportions of ingredients and the consistency of the materials. But it looks like gray concrete mix and ranges from a fine powder to a hard, chunky material. Fentanyl and its many variations can be anywhere from 50 to 100 or more times more powerful than morphine or heroin.
The designer opioid U-47700 is incredibly deadly in even tiny doses. Invented as a painkiller in the 1970s by a team at The Upjohn Company, it was never studied on humans and never produced commercially. But the formula became public after underworld drug researchers found complete instructions on how to make it in the inventor’s U.S. patent.
Subsequently, the drug reached the streets, and could be purchased online from “any number of research chemical warehouses that trade in drugs created in labs,” according to Rolling Stone magazine. In fact, the magazine says, U-47700 was one of the drugs, along with fentanyl, implicated in the tragic overdose death of the musician Prince.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration listed U-47700 in the category of “the most dangerous drugs it regulates,” the Associated Press says. The DEA announced that as of November 14, 2016, U-47700 has been assigned to Schedule 1 and is no longer technically legal.
“Scariest combo I’ve ever seen”
Deneen Kilcrease, manager of the chemistry section at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, told the Associated Press (AP) that “gray death is one of the scariest combinations that I have ever seen in nearly 20 years of forensic chemistry drug analysis.”
The mixtures are “particularly lethal” to users because they don’t know what’s in them or in what concentration. And because some of the drugs, like fentanyl, can be absorbed through the skin, “simply touching the powder puts users at risk,” she said.
The Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) says users inject, swallow, smoke or snort gray death, but that it has a much higher potency than heroin making it especially dangerous. The agency’s primary function is to “identify, disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations” in Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida and beyond.
According to AP, over the past three months in Georgia there have been 50 overdose cases reported involving gray death, mostly from Atlanta. And in Ohio, the Cincinnati area coroner’s office reports that a similar compound has been “coming in for months.”
Deadly risk to users
The state’s attorney general’s office has analyzed eight samples matching the gray death mixture seen in other states. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told AP the mix is a deadly risk to users but also challenges investigators trying to figure out what they’re dealing with.
“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.’”
The takeaway from a story like this is plain: you can no longer put your faith and trust in your dealer – if you ever really could or should anyway. Best case scenario: get yourself into recovery while you’re still alive. It’s too late to get your life back if you’re dead.
If someone you care for has a substance use disorder of any kind, don’t wait. Call Novus for help. We will get you pointed in the direction that works and is right for you.
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