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Grey Death - New And Dangerous Opioid Combo
Updated May 11, 2017 7:19 AM | Filed under: Crime
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(COLUMBUS, OH) - 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 reported 50 overdoses cases involving gray death over the past three months. Users can inject, swallow, smoke or snort the drug. Because these strong drugs can be absorbed through the skin, simply touching the powder puts users at risk.

Greenwood police tell FOX59 that 19-year-old Hanna Richard, and 20-year-old Brandon DeBlaso, of Greenwood, Ind. received gray death instead of the heroin they intended to purchase. The couple snorted the drug, and Richard immediately overdosed. Greenwood Assistant Police Chief Matt Fillenwarth says officers revived Richard using Narcan.

This is the first overdose case involving gray death that police have reported in Indiana.

The drug looks like concrete mix and varies in consistency from a hard, chunky material to a fine powder. A user can buy the lethal cocktail for as low as $10 on the street, Forbes reported.

Law enforcement officials believe a price drop led users to switch from prescription painkillers to heroin, which is often cut with fentanyl -- a drug that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Most alarming to officials is that users do not have a way of telling if heroin is pure or laced with other drugs before using it. The same goes for the gray death.

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. Some of the pills taken from Prince's estate after the musician's overdose death last year contained U-47700.

Grey death has a much higher potency than heroin, according to a bulletin issued by the Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. Users inject, swallow, smoke or snort it.

Georgia's investigation bureau has received 50 overdose cases in the past three months involving grey death, most from the Atlanta area, said spokeswoman Nelly Miles.

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 grey death mixture from around the state.
The combo is just the latest in the trend of heroin mixed with other opioids, such as fentanyl, that has been around for a few years.

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 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, a Republican.

"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 says. "Now, sometimes they're looking at it, at least initially, and say, 'Well, we don't know."'

Some communities also are seeing fentanyl mixed with non-opioids, such as cocaine. In Rhode Island, the state has recommended that individuals with a history of cocaine use receive supplies of the anti-overdose drug naloxone.
These deadly combinations are becoming a hallmark of the heroin and opioid epidemic, which the government says resulted in 33,000 fatal overdoses nationally in 2015. In Ohio, a record 3,050 people died of drug overdoses last year, most the result of opioid painkillers or their relative, heroin.

Most people with addictions buy heroin in the belief that's exactly what they're getting, overdose survivor Richie Webber says.

But that's often not the case, as he found out in 2014 when he overdosed on fentanyl-laced heroin. It took two doses of naloxone to revive him. He's now sober and runs a treatment organization, Fight for Recovery, in Clyde, about 45 miles (72 kilometres) southeast of Toledo.

A typical new combination he's seeing is heroin combined with 3-methylfentanyl, a more powerful version of fentanyl, said Webber, 25. It's one of the reasons he tells users never to take drugs alone.

"You don't know what you're getting with these things," Webber said. "Every time you shoot up you're literally playing Russian roulette with your life."



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