The opioid epidemic is on the rise and is showing no signs of stopping, yet another player has joined the game and is making it even more dangerous: Gray Death.
Its name sounds ominous, but you wouldn’t know it just by looking at the drug itself. It looks a lot like concrete mix at first glance, and its texture ranges from a fine powder to hard and chunky pieces. However, “Gray Death” will seem appropriate once you hear that the drug has been blamed for around 50 overdoses in Georgia in the past three months.
What’s in the Mix?
Gray Death isn’t just one type of substance; rather, it’s a mix of several well-known drugs like heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil, which is used to tranquilize elephants, tigers, and other large animals. According to Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, fentanyl is “50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine”, while carfentanil is 100 times stronger than fentanyl and 10,000 times stronger than morphine.
Gray Death also contains a kind of drug called U-47700. Also known as “U4” and “Pink”, it’s a synthetic opioid that’s considered by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as one of the most dangerous drugs in the country.
Users get Gray Death into their bodies by snorting, smoking, swallowing, or injecting it. Because of the mix of substances it contains, Gray Death is much more potent than heroin, which means that users don’t only get a stronger high — they also have higher chances of overdosing on it and losing their lives.
What makes the drug even more dangerous is that users don’t know exactly what substances are in the mix and what their concentrations are. This makes it too easy for people to overdose, especially those who take Gray Death in large amounts and/or use it along with other types of drugs. Another thing that makes Gray Death incredibly dangerous: because of its potency, it can be easily absorbed by the skin. So, even simply touching the concrete-like drug can put users at risk.
Thankfully, the DEA has not noticed a “national proliferation” of Gray Death; currently, it’s still limited to Ohio and Georgia as well as the Gulf Coast. However, just like with any other drug, it can make its way to the rest of the U.S. in the next few months.
The Gray Death is the latest addition to the growing trend of mixing opioids with other drugs to create deadly cocktails. A version of Gray Death sans U-47700 was first detected by the authorities in 2012 in Atlanta and later made its way to Cincinnati, Chicago, San Diego, and other cities.
In certain communities, users are mixing fentanyl with cocaine and other non-opioid drugs. Other combinations include heroin and fentanyl-class drugs, which are then mixed with HTC, methamphetamine, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and other non-opioids.
What’s dangerous about this is that not all users are aware that they’re getting a mix. Some users, for example, think they’re buying plain heroin, when in fact many sellers are now selling heroin that’s laced with a more powerful form of fentanyl called 3-methylfentanyl. With this potent combination, users become even more at risk for overdose and even death.