heroin

A Certain Shade of Gray

Detail of frame from Durarara!!!

KING 5 overstates the lede:

Washington health experts say deaths due to fentanyl have roughly doubled in the state in only a year. The drug is cut into heroin and other drugs as a cheaper alternative and often times without people knowing.

A new investigation released Wednesday by the State Department of Health, State Toxicology Laboratory, University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, and Public Health Seattle & King County shows deaths from fentanyl and related drugs rose to 70 in 2016 from 28 in 2015.

The State Toxicology Lab says we can’t compare the numbers directly because halfway through the year, the lab changed its testing methods in order to detect smaller amounts of fentanyl. Had it used the old protocol, the lab would have identified 53 fentanyl-related deaths in 2016.

However, the 70 deaths account for 10 percent of all opioid-related deaths in the state.

Even still, the comparative reality isn’t exactly good news. Nor is there much comfort in not being elsewhere. WUSA, via KING 5:

Knoxville police are keeping their eyes out for a dangerous and deadly drug. It looks like a chunk of concrete, can kill with one dose, and is being called ‘Gray Death.’

So far, it’s been found in Ohio, Georgia, and Kentucky, which are all states connected to Tennessee by an interstate.

According to reports, the drug is 10,000 times more potent than morphine, 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, and includes an elephant tranquilizer called Carfentanil.

That tranquilizer showed up in Tennessee for the first time this year. Since then, it’s been found in five separate cases, including one in East Tennessee.

Remember: You can call it “gray death”, and someone will still want to use it.

At the same time, the joke about the nanovirus doesn’t work; the opioid epidemic is a bit more serious than video game obscurities. Still, of course they called it “gray death”.

(It’s a marketplace thing. See, back when KGB was popular as “killer green buds”, the marijuana didn’t actually kill you. Of course they called it “gray death”. Think about who we’re dealing with, here inasmuch as anyone would actually manufacture and distribute the stuff.)

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Tan, LiLi. “‘Kill pill’ intensifying opioid epidemic”. KING 5. 10 May 2017.

WUSA. “New drug called ‘Gray Death’ can kill with just one dose”. KING 5. 10 May 2017.

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Not Good News

Detail of graph by Mark Nowlin/Seattle Times showing death rates for various drugs in King County, Washington, between 1997 and 2014.

Just, you know, take note: We have a problem.

Fatal overdoses linked to heroin surged by 58 percent in King County last year, fueling the steepest rise in local drug-caused deaths in 17 years.

Heroin was involved in 156 deaths in the region in 2014, up from 99 the year before — and just 49 in 2009. Overall, there were 314 drug deaths in the area last year, the highest number since 1997, according to a report released Thursday by the University of Washington Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute.

The only word to describe the trend is “distressing,” said Caleb Banta-Green, an affiliate associate professor of health services with the UW School of Public Health.

“I knew it was going to go up,” he said. “I didn’t know it was going to go up that much.”

(Aleccia)

Should we pause a moment to consider that no such bad news ever fails to get worse, well, right, we get interesting notes like this, as well:

Drug deaths tied to methamphetamine also jumped by 59 percent, with 70 deaths in 2014, up from 44 the year before. Among primary heroin users, meth was the common secondary drug of choice, used in about a quarter of cases.

Right. You know. One of those mixes I just never have figured out how to understand.

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