The cause of the opioid epidemic and wave of overdoses across our country is not a black or white matter. The most recent news reports prove that to be so. While many are dying from heroin, or prescription opiates and benzodiazepines, a large number of overdoses have been directly related to deadly synthetic drugs, such as Fentanyl. In past articles we have talked about a rash of deadly synthetic drugs that have made their way into our country and our homes. From elephant tranquilizers to counterfeit prescription pills made up of U-47700, a synthetic opioid found in Prince’s autopsy. All of these scenarios were terrifying and almost unbelievable when they first surfaced, but what if we told you there is a new drug out there that contained all of these synthetic opioids.
They are calling it “Gray Death” and it most recently was found in Pennsylvania. Just a short drive from the Wilkes Barre/Scranton area, authorities arrested a young woman last week for selling the deadly opioid out of her Bethlehem home. Experts are saying this drug is so deadly, that a small miniscule, as tiny as a grain of salt, could kill someone. The drug’s name came from its gray color and texture, comparing it to concrete mix. The Lehigh Valley authorities and health experts are fearful that this new opioid compound with ensue the next tidal wave of deaths throughout the region. Although this is believed to be its first appearance in PA, DEA officials report the drug has shown up in overdose cases in other states, such as Georgia, Alabama, Ohio, and New York.
Gray Death In Bethlehem
Police authorities became suspicious of the off-white chemical after undercover officers made two purchases from the Bethlehem residence. They were worried that the packets, which were being sold as heroin, also contained Fentanyl. Little did they know, after rushing the opioid to the lab for testing, would they find something much more lethal. Preliminary results concluded that the drug was in fact Gray Death, a mixture of heroin, Fentanyl, Carfentanil, and U-47700. Dr. Kenneth Katz told the Morning Call, “It’s like playing Russian roulette but instead this is with six bullets instead of one. If this catches on, we’re going to have a rash of large amount of deaths.”
Bethlehem police report that the undercover buys occurred in the home of Jennifer Martinez, where her young children also resided. Allegedly this opioid, one that is even too dangerous to touch with gloves on, was kept in a cup in her kitchen within easy access to her children. Martinez has been charged with possession of drugs, possession of paraphernalia, possession of a small amount of marijuana, and endangering the welfare of children. Although they need to proceed with further investigation to arrest dealers higher up on the food chain, Sgt. Mike Mish says they wanted to move quickly on Martinez and get this dangerous opioid off the street.
Police Chief Mark DiLuzio says this is the first case of Gray Death in the city of Bethlehem and the Lehigh County coroner’s office have no yet seen overdose deaths directly related to this particular mixture. Nonetheless, they do believe it is only a matter of time before cases are reported. Heroin, Fentanyl, and other synthetic opioid compounds have shook the Lehigh Valley, attributing to 149 deaths in 2016; this number does not include those that were saved by the overdose antidote, Narcan. This one case of Gray Death is a prime example as to how increasingly worse the opioid epidemic is getting. New synthetic compounds continue being created, making it nearly impossible for authorities to keep up.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Unfortunately, the sad reality is that this issue may in fact get worse before it gets better. Opioids have become so dangerous, so hazardous, that the DEA has made recommendations when handling said drugs, and calls them a threat not only to users, but to medical, laboratory, and police personnel. It short, it has changed the way first responders and police authorities address a crime scene or overdose situation. Officers are now instructed to only handle opioids when a second officer is present and equipped with Naloxone, while wearing two pairs of gloves and a respirator.
Additionally, while this may be the first case of Gray Death in Pennsylvania, reports have surfaced in several other states. A spokeswoman from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation told the Associated Press that they have seen 50 overdose cases over the last 3 months linked to Gray Death and in Ohio, at least 8 cases matched the opioid. What’s more, a user can purchase the drug for just $10 and never really know what they are getting. Often times, an addict may think they are buying heroin, but in fact have something much more dangerous in their possession.
In times such as these, we have to remember that awareness is the first step, for users, families, treatment providers, and law enforcement alike. If you are currently struggling with an opioid addiction, you should remember that drug use has escalated from dangerous to completely unpredictable. The world of drugs and alcohol is not what it was just 5 or 10 years ago. What we are dealing with now is more than an opioid epidemic…it’s a poison epidemic. Synthetic drugs have become a silent terrorist…living right under our noses!
Contact Clearbrook Today
Pennsylvania is no stranger to the opioid epidemic, and now we have a bigger threat on our hands. If you are struggling with heroin or opioid addiction, please know that help is available. For more than 40 years, Clearbrook Treatment Centers has been providing effective treatment to all Pennsylvania residents, including those that live in the Lehigh Valley. If you are ready to take the first step, please contact our Admissions Specialists today and get on the road to recovery.