Warning in Hawaii as dangerous drug kills dozens on the mainland, some just by touch

Photo provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

Gray Death is an illegal drug that’s so powerful, merely touching it can kill you.

It’s a deadly mix of pain killers that has Hawaii law enforcement officials concerned, even though it hasn’t been found here yet.

What makes it so dangerous and what kind of precautions are being taken?

KHON2 sat down with a special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, who wants to warn the public about how dangerous this drug is. It’s also changing the way law enforcement responds to drug arrests.

It’s gray in color and can come in the form of a rock, powder, or a pill.

So far there have been 46 overdose deaths in seven mainland states. In some cases, the person died just from touching a small amount of the drug, which was then absorbed through the skin.

That has emergency responders across the country worried.

“If EMS shows up on a scene of an overdose event, they don’t know if it’s heroin, Fentanyl, Gray Death, or U4. They don’t know what they’re dealing with, so it’s scary for everybody,” said Daria Lupacchino, DEA supervisory special agent.

Gray Death is usually a mix of heroin, Fentanyl, Carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer, and a synthetic opioid known as U4. All of them are powerful on their own. Combined, even a small amount can lead to an overdose and death.

Law enforcers have to wear HAZMAT suits if the drug is suspected at the scene.

“We’re told to wear masks. We’re told to wear gloves. Even if you seize a cell phone now, they say be careful if there’s a powdery substance. Don’t touch it with your bare hands, so there’s the policy with DEA is changing,” said Lupacchino.

The DEA says it is already seeing an increase in heroin use in Hawaii, so it only makes sense that other opioids including Gray Death will eventually reach our shores.

“Unfortunately, DEA does see it spreading throughout every state, just like heroin abuse and prescription opioid abuse,” said Lupacchino.

“It will become the new terrible cocktail where we’ll see the overdoses. We’ll see some teens get it and they will overdose. We will see the already addicted crowd that are suffering take it and our ERs will get flooded,” said Sen. Josh Green, who’s also an emergency doctor on Hawaii Island.

Green wants other doctors to be aware of this drug. Treating Gray Death overdoses will take more than the usual application of the remedy known as Narcan.

“This stuff is so potent that it’s already overwhelming Narcan, where we’ll have to give two and three doses of it to get people to come out of their overdose, so I’m really worried. I’m glad that we’re bringing awareness to it now,” Green said.

We asked the state’s Narcotics Enforcement Division to talk about Gray Death, but a spokeswoman declined to give an interview and sent us a statement saying any illicit drug that finds its way to Hawaii is a concern, and the division will monitor what is happening on the mainland.

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