While heroin overdoses in Horry County and South Carolina continue to rise, the arrival of “gray death” has many officials worried about what’s next for those numbers.
According to the website Healthline, gray death is a dangerous opioid cocktail that’s named for its ashy color. Officials say there are several combinations characterized as the “gray death,” but it’s commonly comprised of heroin, fentanyl, the elephant tranquilizer carfentanil and a synthetic opioid called U-47700, better known on the streets as “Pink” or “U4”, according to a Fox News report.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation even put out a synthetic opioids alert in May, after 17 people died from the drug, which was labeled “U-47700 and/or furanyl fentanyl.”
The GBI reported approximately 50 cases containing the drug as of May 4.
An official with the Horry County Police Department told our news partner WPDE, the drug has made its way to the coast.
“It’s only been seen a couple of times, but it has moved its way from Georgia over here, we’ve seen it move across the state,” said Lt. Jamie Debari, with the Narcotics and Vice Unit of the HCPD. “The western parts of the state have seen it a lot more, but it has moved its way all the way to the coast and to Horry County.”
Local officials said earlier this year they administered the heroin and opioid antidote Narcan over 1,000 times last year.
Depending on the amount or strength of the overdose, officials may need to use more Narcan than normal.
Because the drug is “lethal at very low doses, law enforcement and the public should use caution when handling these drugs. They can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin and are extremely toxic in small quantities,” the GBI said.
Perhaps the most alarming part of gray death is that users won’t be able to tell before using it if the heroin or gray death is pure or laced with other drugs.
States that have reported “gray death” include Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Ohio.
“If you put this in your body, you will die, no questions asked,” Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force Commander Clay Hammac told ABC3340.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 33,000 people died from opioid use in 2015.
The good news? It’s not popular nationwide.
“We’ve not yet seen a national proliferation of the ‘gray death’ substance,” Russ Baer of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency told NBC News.