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.
The Ohio coroner’s office told the news agency that a compound similar to gray death has been coming in for months, with at least eight samples matching the drug mixture. 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.
“You don’t know what you’re getting with these things,” Richie Webber, who overdosed on fentanyl-laced heroin in 2014, told The Associated Press. “Every time you shoot up, you’re literally playing Russian roulette with your life.”
With the nation already in the midst of an opioid epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and law enforcement departments around the country have been on high alert for fentanyl-laced opioids, which are behind an increasing number of unintentional overdose fatalities in multiple states across the United States. In 2015 alone, opioids, including prescription drugs and heroin, killed more than 33,000 Americans.
“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,’” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told The Associated Press. “Now, sometimes they’re looking at it, at least initially, and say, ‘Well, we don’t know.’”
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.