“Gray Death” A Deadly Cocktail
Author: Linda Law MD
For less than $20, you can buy a cocktail—one that includes an elephant tranquilizer and has a good chance of killing you. Sound sensational? “Gray Death” is one of the newer players in the opioid epidemic and its use has led to several deaths.
The opioid epidemic is killing an ever-increasing number of Americans. For the 12-month period ending January 2017, the US saw 64,070 drug overdose deaths, a 21% increase from the preceding year. 15,000 overdose deaths were attributed to heroin and 20,000 to synthetic opioids, like those found in Gray Death. The number of deaths due to synthetic opioids more than doubled from the preceding year.
“Opioids” is a term that includes natural and manufactured chemicals that interact with the body and brain to reduce sensations of pain and sometimes cause a brief sense of euphoria. Opioids also induce tolerance—more and more drug is needed to reach the same level of pain relief.
All opioids have the potential to cause addiction, whether legally prescribed like oxycodone and codeine, diverted pharmaceuticals like fentanyl or morphine; or illegal drugs like heroin. As dealers and distributors of opioids attempt to keep up with the demand and keep their supply available, new drugs and combinations of drugs, appear on the street. One of these combinations of drugs is “Gray Death”.
A piece of Gray Death can look like a chunk of dirty concrete or concrete mixing powder, hence the name. Gray Death is made illegally, and the portions and ingredients vary. The cocktail may include heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil, and U-47700. Each of these chemicals can be lethal on its own, heroin is the weakest drug in the mix! Combined, the danger is astronomical.
Carfentanil is 10,000 times stronger than morphine and is used as a general anesthetic for elephants and other large animals. U-47700 (Pink, U4) is another potent synthetic opioid, associated on its own with multiple deaths- including the rock-star Prince.
Gray Death can be taken in through almost any route—inhaled, injected, swallowed, snorted and even absorbed through the skin. In Ohio, a police officer overdosed when he brushed a powder off his uniform with his bare hand. The powder was later identified as fentanyl, one of the components of Gray Death. Since Gray Death can be absorbed through inhaling dust or through the skin, it is safest for lay people to not handle the drug at all and call poison control or local police for help in disposing of any suspected Gray Death powder or chunks.
For more information on opioid overdoses and the opioid epidemic go to the CDC’s website https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/index.html.