RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The latest opioid is so deadly, it’s been dubbed “gray death.”
It can look like a chunk of concrete or a powdery cement mix, and just one dose can be lethal.
WAVY sister station WRIC has confirmed the powerful drug cocktail is in the Commonwealth.
“It doesn’t take much to be a fatal dose,” says Scott May, Chemistry Program Manager at the Virginia Department of Forensic Science state lab in Richmond.
He tells WRIC there have been two seizures of the drug in Virginia.
“We had two cases in the northern part of the state that had mixtures consistent with what is being known as gray death,” May said.
Gray death is a combination of power synthetic opioids. Dr. James Hutchings, Toxicology program manager at the Richmond state lab, explains, “it’s heroin, plus U47700, fentanyl and carfentanil.”
Not doubt that is a potentially lethal combination. Fentanyl alone is 100 times more powerful than morphine.
Carfentanil is strong enough to tranquilize an elephant.
Lab technicians found in both northern Virginia cases, the drugs tested in contained a mix of 5 opioid compounds. At the state lab in Richmond, no ‘gray death’ but they’re seeing more and more cases of heroin laced with other powerful opioids.
“We are currently getting just over 200 of these type of cases a month,” May said.
Testing these drug cocktails has become a concern for the lab.
“If you breathe it in and that gets into the nasal passages that can be very deadly,” explains Dr. Hutchings.
It’s prompting state labs to take precautions.
“That includes the availability of naxolone,” May said.
Naxolone is an opioid antidote.
In addition, when testing these drugs at the state labs, a technician must always have a partner in case of an accident.
According to the DEA, ‘gray death’ has been linked to multiple overdoses in Georgia, Alabama and Ohio and at least 46 deaths across the U.S.
What is troublesome for law enforcement, no one really knows where it is coming from. It’s suspected to be trafficked in from Mexico or China, but they don’t know for sure.