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Authorities warn of ‘gray death,’ a deadly new opioid combination

Kane County Coroner Rob Russell warned residents Thursday about a deadly new heroin derivative called gray death." | Kane County coroner's office

Kane County Coroner Rob Russell warned residents Thursday about a new heroin derivative that is “killing people at an alarming rate in the country.”

The new drug substance, which is known as “gray death,” looks like concrete mix and varies in consistency from a hard, chunky material to a fine powder, according to the Kane County coroner’s office.

The drug is a combination of several opioids, including heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil — which is sometimes used to tranquilize large animals like elephants — and a synthetic opioid called U-47700, the coroner’s office said.

“It has been difficult enough to warn citizens of pure heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil, and other opiates,” Russell said in a statement. “Now all of these substances, and more, are being combined together and used at an alarming rate and people are dying because of it.”

“In addition, because these strong drugs can be absorbed through the skin, simply touching the powder puts users, and First Responders, at risk,” he added.

While the drug has reportedly reached Ohio, Kentucky and a few other states, Russell, the chairman of the First Responder Committee of the Chicagoland Opiate Area Task Force, is currently unaware if “gray death” has made its way to the Chicago area, the coroner’s office said. He hopes bringing awareness to the dangerous combination will help thwart future area deaths.

“If this news release saves one life because a citizen recognizes ‘gray death,’ it is worth it,” Russell said.