It isn’t uncommon for illicit drug makers to give their products strange or ominous names. Gray death is an accurate name to describe the drug’s appearance and potential outcome of anyone who uses it.
What Is the Gray Death Drug?
Gray death is a mixture of opioids with a constantly evolving list of ingredients. Some samples that investigators have obtained contain opioids like U-47700, fentanyl, and heroin, which are sometimes lethal when used on their own. Sometimes drugs are used in trace amounts and they may not show up in lab tests. Most importantly, the person using them doesn’t know what’s in the mix. That’s one reason for the overdoses and overdose-related deaths that are popping up across the country. Although investigators have identified some cases of overdose related to the drug, the mystery mixture might have caused many more that haven’t been identified.
– What It Looks Like
The drug gets its name, in part, due to its gray appearance. It looks like fine, powdery cement or chunks of concrete or rock. It is distributed as a powder or in tablets. The color is another mystery related to the drug. None of the ingredients identified in the mixtures are gray or should give the drug that appearance.
– What It Does
The effect of the gray death drug depends on which drugs are in the mixture. A single dose of any opioid puts you at risk for severe respiratory depression or death. Common effects of opioid use include:
- Slowed Breathing
- Mental Confusion
- Fatigue and Weakness
Types of Illicit Opioid Drugs Found in Gray Death
U-47700, sometimes called “Pink”, was developed in the late 1970s as an alternative to morphine. The drug was classified as a “research chemical” and never obtained FDA approval for prescription sale. During the years after it was developed, the drug found its way into the hands of foreign drug manufacturers. While the opioid has largely flown under the radar, drug users are finding it far too easy to obtain U-47700 online. The drug is 7.5 times as potent as morphine and it produces the feelings of euphoria that drive users to abuse opioids, but it’s also highly toxic, even in small doses.
Even those people with limited access to opioids locally can get the drug at a small cost and have it delivered to their door. In one case, a 19-year-old drug offender wearing a monitoring bracelet after his discharge from prison a year before managed to get the drug. He received the package from China that said it contained a USB drive. What it contained was the U-47700 that he was no longer able to leave his home to buy. He headed to the bathroom with a syringe and his father found him unresponsive a short time later.
Experts say U-47700 causes psychotic disorders unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. Deaths related to the drug are also climbing in several states.
Law enforcement has identified about 50 cases where the gray death drug has contained U-47700. Not only does this synthetic opioid pose a serious risk to those who use it, but it’s also a danger to law enforcement, health care providers, and innocent bystanders. It can be lethal when inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Even small amounts can quickly lead to fatal respiratory depression. In some areas, law enforcement agents are implementing protective equipment when handling any opioid. Unfortunately, even these steps haven’t been enough to prevent all police officers from the potent effects of the drug.
Unlike the synthetic opioids found in the gray death drug, heroin is an opiate that is derived from the opium in poppy plants. It is two to three times more potent than morphine. Users often overdose on the drug because they don’t realize its potency. Dealers often cut heroin with other substances including everything from sugar to strychnine and other poisons.
Sometimes gray death contains heroin, along with other potent opioids. In some cases, users think they are buying heroin but get gray death instead.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. In its prescription form, doctors prescribe the painkiller to treat patients with severe pain. The forms of the drug that lead to overdoses and abuse are non-pharmaceutical. The high potency of fentanyl increases the risk of overdose. Some illicit drug manufacturers cut other drugs with fentanyl to make it more potent and reduce their manufacturing costs. Gray death isn’t the only drug that might contain fentanyl without the user knowing it.
As the release of synthetic opioids continues to grow in variety and danger, carfentanil is now included on the list. It’s also another one of the drugs dealers are using to cut heroin with. The drug was previously sold under the trade name “Wildnil” as a large animal tranquilizer. The same drug that is effective at tranquilizing a 15,000-pound elephant is being used by humans that weigh less than 200 pounds. It’s not surprising that a dose as small as a grain of salt is enough to cause an overdose and death.
Carfentanil is 100 times stronger than fentanyl and 10,000 times stronger than morphine. Like U-47700, carfentanil is absorbed through the skin or inhaled. It is considered to be the single most potent opioid sold on the streets today. Chemists have also found Carfentanil in some samples of the gray death drug.
Once experts recognized the emergence of carfentanil, they believed they had seen the worst possible opioid to hit the streets. Now that the gray death drug is growing, there’s an even greater concern that more overdoses and deaths will follow.
How Is Gray Death Used?
Users administer gray death in most of the traditional means drug abusers use including injection, smoking, snorting, or consuming it orally. Experts guess that the depressive effects on breathing probably occur quickly with the drug. The effects caused by gray death use include:
- Shallow Breathing
- Cold or Clammy Skin
- Pinpoint Pupils
- Nausea and/or Vomiting
- Loss of Consciousness
- Heart Failure
Since illicit manufacturers make the drug, there is no quality control over what goes into the mix or whether its ingredients are pure. It’s a gamble every time someone uses it. This is just the next step in the advancement of the opioid crisis.
Treating Overdose and Addiction to Gray Death
With each new and increasingly potent drug, the potential for overdose and overdose-related deaths increases. Fewer people have to worry about addiction because the drug is so lethal. All it takes is a single dose to kill in some cases.
Narcan (naloxone) is a drug used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. It has been a valuable tool in the fight against the opioid crisis in this country. The number of deaths related to opioid use increases each year, and with each new drug added to the list. In some areas, law enforcement and first responders carry Narcan with them to administer it to those people who have overdosed on any opioid drug. If given in time, it can reverse the drug’s effects.
Opioids work by binding to receptors in the brain. The drug triggers the brain’s reward center, suppressing their pain and creating a feeling of euphoria.
The biggest danger from opioid abuse is the development of tolerance. Repeated use of the drug causes the brain to stop releasing the feel-good chemicals that it normally would. This causes the user to need more of the drug to achieve the same feeling. This is what leads to addiction and dependence.
Opioids not only suppress pain; they suppress the user’s respiratory system. Narcan reverses respiratory depression when a person takes too much of the drug. It binds to the same receptors as the opioid drugs and stops the drug’s effects. The drug can be administered intravenously, through injections, or as a nasal spray. It usually works within minutes and has saved countless lives by reducing the effects of various type of opioids. In some cases, Narcan must be re-administered until the opioid taken has worn off.
In cases where Narcan was administered to people overdosing on the gray death drug, multiple doses were used. Even then, Narcan isn’t always effective at reviving the person who overdoses on gray death.
Narcan isn’t the answer for stopping the opioid crisis in America. It certainly isn’t the answer for users of the gray death drug. It is a temporary solution that only works in some cases and when the drug is available. It has saved a lot of people’s lives. The problem is, it doesn’t stop them from being dependent or addicted to the drug they use. The next time they overdose, the outcome might be a lot different.
Perhaps the most frightening thing of all is that teens are among the users, willing to give the new potent drug a try. Young users looking for a better high are likely to believe the drug dealer’s word about what is in the mixture they sell them. Some might believe they are getting pure heroin instead of the lethal mixture that is the gray death.
Gray death emerged in the Southeast but is quickly making its way across the country. The drug is frightening in its effects as well as for how easy it is for people to get it. Gray death is shipped in from China or smuggled in from Mexico. Drug dealers in the states disperse the arrival of the drugs to sell to people on the streets.
While experts struggle to gain control of the drug before it spreads any further, there’s still a lot they don’t know about it. For one, some of the ingredients in the mix still haven’t been identified. For another, they don’t know the exact route the drug takes to get from its destination to the dealers here.
There is no way to know what is in the drug or the impact it will have on users when they use it. Still, people who already use opioids and have developed a tolerance are looking for something a little stronger and so seek it out.
There’s no way to reduce the risks of the gray death drug, other than to avoid using illicit drugs altogether. Some observers say using the drug is akin to playing Russian Roulette. They never know what drug they are taking or which dose will be the lethal one.
What to Do
If someone you know is considering trying gray death, do everything you can to dissuade them. Provide them with the information in this article to help them understand the risk that the drug imposes. If they are already engaged in opioid use, encourage them to get treatment. No illicit opioid is safe to use. Although some types of drugs are more potent and carry a greater risk of overdose, every drug has the potential to cause misuse, addiction, and overdose.
If you are considering trying gray death or you already are, reach out for help right away. Even if you’ve avoided serious side-effects to this point, this is the most unpredictable opioid introduced to date. Experts still don’t know all of the ingredients used in the drug. Drug manufacturers often use drugs with higher potencies to increase the overall potency and reduce the cost. Even when they tell you it only has one or two ingredients, you could be taking a lethal dose.
Effective opioid treatment doesn’t have to interfere with your work or your life. An outpatient treatment program provides the medically managed treatment you need to get through withdrawal safely. Medically-assisted treatment helps alleviate withdrawal symptoms and reduces the risk of relapse.
Opioid addiction doesn’t go away. Over time, you need more of the drug with more frequent doses to achieve the same feeling. Using more potent drugs like fentanyl or carfentanil only increases your risk of side effects, overdose, and death. Once you advance to the use of highly dangerous mixtures like the gray death drug, addiction is no longer your biggest worry.
If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid abuse or addiction, contact Recovery Oasis today. We have treatment options that make getting the help you need convenient, safe, and effective for the long-term.