30 Jun Dangerous New Street Drugs That Are Killing People in Georgia
Overdose deaths from opioids continue to rise in the state of Georgia, and it appears that some new “street” drugs may shoulder part of the blame. While the opioid epidemic ravages the nation, and in particular the state of Georgia, doctors, researchers and law enforcement are pointing to new drugs that are hitting the streets with high and unadvertised potency, which is leading to clusters of overdoses.
Because the drugs are new, it is difficult to determine their contents, as well as if they are the cause of the overdoses that have been coming into Georgia hospitals in record numbers, but there certainly does seem to be a strong connection. To help you be aware and on the lookout, here are a few of the “street” drugs out there that have been affiliated with the recent opioid epidemic.
The Latest: Yellow “Percocet”
A recent string of overdoses in central Georgia points in the direction of new, potent mixture of drugs that is being disguised as other substances. According to Georgia authorities, up to four people have died from overdose, with dozens more being found unconscious, and many requiring hospitalization and treatment. One state official said at least seven overdose patients were still on ventilators as of June 7. Five of the overdoses came from the same household!
Officials are not yet sure of the cause, but several patients told doctors and nurses that they became ill after swallowing yellow pills that they purchased on the street and believed to be Percocet. However, the compound they took is extremely potent, and patients required massive doses of naloxone to counteract its effects. The scary part: many patients said they only took one pill.
On its own, Percocet is a prescription opioid that contains a blend of acetaminophen and oxycodone. This drug compound can cause people to lose consciousness and experience severe respiratory failure and is considered a dangerous, potentially lethal substance. Georgia health officials continue to test the drug to identify the pills and their ingredients.
Pinpointing the exact cause of the overdose deaths and other patient’s’ illness may be difficult because tests don’t always reveal the causes of overdoses. It’s also difficult to test for the newer synthetic drugs. Police have never seen the pill they believe to be the culprit before these overdoses.
Going by patient reports, it appears the drug is currently being sold in these yellow pills and is being disguised as Percocet. According to the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office, the dangerous street drug is actually being sold with the word “PERCOCET” stamped in capital letters on one side of the pills.The numbers “10/325” are imprinted on the other side, which would typically indicate the drug’s dosage. However on these counterfeit pills, investigators have notice that the imprints have been made on an angle, and are not as deep as the manufacturers
Doctors are also concerned that the drug could be a compound of much more powerful opioids, which would make it effects harder to reverse. Another recent compound has emerged in the south that is 10,000 times more powerful than morphine. The normal doses of Narcan are not effective in reversing the effect of these drugs.
It isn’t uncommon for drug dealers to sell real prescription drugs, including opioids, on the street. But it is suspected that someone developed this new pill deliberately, and is trying to pass it off as prescription medication. These unregulated street drugs are often far more potent that prescription drugs and can be purchased for much cheaper.
Reports from Georgia health officials say the rash of overdoses was the largest cluster of opioid overdoses in state history. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said preliminary testing found one of the drugs in the mixture to be consistent with a new fentanyl analogue.
This is particularly troublesome as fentanyl is an extremely potent pain reliever prescribed by doctors. The Center of Disease Control and Prevention say fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is produced illegally and sold on the streets for its heroin-like effects. When the drug is used improperly, it can be deadly.
Overdoses were reported in Centerville, Perry, Warner Robbins and Albany within a span of around 48 hours. They continued coming in from neighboring towns in Bibb County the following couple days. Bibb County Sheriff David Davis asked the community for help, requesting anyone with a drug problem or who normally takes illegal drugs to come forward, promising that authorities would not charge them with anything if they were able to provide information leading to arrest on who and where the drugs were coming from.
Most patients arrived at hospitals unconscious with severe overdoses, many of them needed medical equipment to breathe and aggressive doses of overdose-reversing drugs. The opioid antidote Narcan, also known as naloxone, was used to counteract the effects of the unknown drug. In recent years, local groups and experts have been advocating for more naloxone to be more readily available in Georgia communities to help combat the epidemic.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab began studying counterfeit pills in May and found more than 450 that contained fentanyl and other dangerous drugs. They also found that these drugs were being sold on the street as pharmaceuticals. In the last year alone, about 1,300 people fatally overdosed on drugs in Georgia, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Another street opioid drug causing problems in Georgia is a concoction known as “grey death” This drug has also been linked to some overdoses in Georgia as well as other parts of the south. But like the yellow “Percocets” above, it is not yet known where it is coming from.
Grey death is a mix of opioids that can cause overdose death in very small doses. The drug has the unique appearance of concrete mixing powder, giving it its name.
Also like the yellow “Percocets,” the contents of the drug remain a mystery, as well as how the drug keeps its signature color, with one chemist remarking “To this date, I have no idea what makes it gray, Nothing in and of itself should be that color.”
Part of the issue seems to stem from the fact that the ingredients of grey death varies from sample to sample. A variety of opioids, including designer drug and known killer U-47700, commonly known as “pink.” have been found in grey death samples. Others include heroin, fentanyl other fentanyl-like molecules. Some drugs do not show up on tests because they are sometimes present in extremely low concentrations, making the testing process even more difficult. However each of the substances listed are extremely potent, and can be deadly on their own. This coupled with the color helps give the “grey death” drug compound its name.
Furthermore, lab tests may pick up on only one of the drugs, making testing inconclusive, even when determining a cause of death from overdose, meaning more deaths may be attributed to grey death than is even known. Unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure at this time.
Georgia police say they have seized upwards of 50 batches of grey death across the state, with the majority coming from metro Atlanta. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, this gravel-like heroin has been seen in multiple regions across the nation since 2012. Outside of the state, grey death has been confirmed in Alabama, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Several overdoses and overdose-related deaths in Georgia and Alabama have been linked to grey death, with many toxicology reports still pending for absolute confirmation.
U-47700 “Pink” and Fentanyl
Georgia alone has confirmed six deaths from one of the compounds found in grey death: U-47700. Another 12 overdose deaths have been caused by fentanyl. Again, since these compounds have been found in grey death, those overdose deaths may have been caused by this street drug, but that is as of yet unconfirmed.
In response to dozens of overdose deaths across the country, U-47700 was classified by the DEA as a Schedule 1 drug–a restrictive category for drugs with a high potential for abuse. In a statement, the DEA said, “Because substances like U-47700 are often manufactured in illicit labs overseas, the identity, purity, and quantity are unknown, creating a ‘Russian Roulette’ scenario for any user.”
The problem was, shortly after the DEA made this classification, they began to notice new fentanyl-like drugs emerging. Foreign chemists are able to get around U.S. laws by slightly changing the fentanyl molecule, and are able to export the drugs faster than the DEA can regulate them. And more troublesome yet is the fact that many of the substances are much stronger than fentanyl itself.
A drug like carfentanil can tranquilize a 2,000-pound elephant with a single, pure flake. Carfentanil is 100 times more potent than fentanyl and 10,000 times stronger morphine. Carfentanil has been found in some mixes of the grey death, and more scarily yet, there are some compounds that are even more potent.
According to the GBI, a metro Atlanta law enforcement agency recently seized around eight kilograms of a furanyl fentanyl/U-4 mixture. An initial field test came back negative but the GBI Crime Lab later positively identified the substances in testing.
Since the drug can be absorbed easily, local law enforcement has been told to use extreme caution and protective equipment when handling or seizing any synthetic opioid. In an effort to combat these drugs, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation to ban both U-4 and furanyl fentanyl, which Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law, effective April 17.
What Are The Signs of Opioid Overdose?
With overdoses becoming such a problem in the state, it’s important to know the signs of one should you encounter a person in such a situation.
Unresponsiveness is the number one sign of an opioid overdose, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health,
Other signs include:
- the subject being awake but unable to talk
- a limp posture
- face going pale or clammy
- blue fingernails and lips
- slow, shallow or erratic breathing
- choking sounds or a snore-like gurgling
If a person is lighter-skinned, their skin tone will turn a bluish purple, while darker-skinned people will turn grayish or ashen.
A common fear for people in an overdose situation is that the person who overdosed will get arrested, or getting arrested themselves, but Georgia’s Medical Amnesty Law protects victims and callers who seek medical assistance at drug or alcohol overdose scenes. The law limits liability for a small amount of drugs or alcohol, as well as liability for breaches of parole, probation or other violations. There’s no excuse not to call 911 if someone is having an overdose.
Emergency responders will most likely administer naloxone as a temporary remedy for opioid overdose, but further medical attention will most likely be needed. Beyond immediate emergency treatment, there are many treatment facilities available across Georgia at which to seek help.
Helpline Georgia is available 24 hours a day to provide information about addiction, treatment options, locations for treatment organizations and self-help organizations. Helpline Georgia can be reached at 800-338-6745. Pregnant women using opioids should reach out to the Emory Center for Maternal Substance Abuse and Child Development.