The opioid crisis that has gripped the United States has resulted in unprecedented tragedy. In 2017, there were 47,600 deaths attributed to opioid related overdoses. Not only does that number account for over two-thirds of the total number of drug overdose deaths (67.8 percent), it is also a 12% increase on the previous year.
CDC researchers found another disturbing statistic – deaths involving synthetic opioids specifically had jumped even more dramatically. A 45.2% increase over the previous year brought the total number of such deaths to 28,466. Certain states saw shockingly high increases of the same statistic. While Oregon’s 90.9% increase may seem unbelievable, the numbers in North Carolina and Arizona were even more shocking, more than doubling to 112.9% and 122.2% respectively.
The advent of these levels of synthetic opioid abuse has added an even more dangerous factor to the opioid crisis. Perhaps the most well known example of this substance is fentanyl – a synthetic drug 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. As terrifying as this drug’s existence is, it has paled in comparison to a number of other synthetic opioids discovered to be flooding our nation’s streets. About two years ago, however, a certain drug began showing up that may be the most dangerous of them all. Its name is, unfortunately, appropriate given the danger it poses to users: Gray Death.
What Is Gray Death?
Gray (or ‘grey’) death is actually not one drug, but rather a combination of some of the most powerful opioids available. While samples vary in terms of composition, many have been found to contain the following drugs.
Fentanyl – Also known as fentanil, this drug was created in 1960 for legitimate use as a pain medication. Considered an essential medicine for cancer pain, it was prescribed more than 2 million times in 2016. However, in that same year, it was the drug involved in the most overdose deaths in the country. This is not surprising, given that it can be up to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Just 2mg of this drug is considered to be a lethal dose for the majority of human beings.
Carfentanil – While structurally similar to fentanyl, this drug is 100 times stronger – making it thousands of times stronger than pure heroin. Synthesized by the same chemists behind fentanyl in 1974, this incredibly powerful drug is used as a tranquilizer for massive animals such as elephants. Not only is it often used in place of heroin as it is far cheaper and easier to make – until 2017, it was shockingly not a controlled substance in China and was widely available legally on the internet.
U-47700 – At 7.5 times the strength of morphine, U-47700 (or ‘Pink’) is not as powerful as other components of gray death. However, other factors make it particularly dangerous. Firstly, it is worryingly easy to obtain. As its name suggests, this drug never entered the pharmaceutical world for mainstream use. While developed in the 1970s as an analgesic (pain relieving) drug, it never obtained FDA approval for sale. Soon after, however, illicit drug manufacturers began synthesizing it…and like carfentanil, it was easily available online. Another particular danger is that its particular makeup seems to cause long-lasting effects on users, including the development of psychotic disorders.
Heroin – While the well-known, naturally derived drug has been found in samples of gray death, this is rare simply because heroin is more expensive and would need to be included in far greater amounts in order to have the same effect.
In addition to these, researchers have found fentanyl-like compounds even stronger than carfentanil in batches of gray death. As previously mentioned, gray death’s composition varies wildly from sample to sample. It may contain some or all the above-mentioned drugs. Further, the ratios of the drugs is equally inconsistent. Not only are the same amounts not used, they may not even be similar. With the potency of the drugs involved , this greatly increases the likelihood of overdose. Precisely the same amount of gray death by mass may be many hundreds or thousands of times more powerful than a user’s last batch.
Further complicating matters is the fact that, because the drugs are so strong, the dangerous amounts included are actually quite tiny. For this reason, and the fact that these complex drugs are being combined, sometimes it is difficult to detect all the drugs present in a sample.
Why Is It Called ‘Gray Death’?
Grey Death has perhaps the most appropriate name among all drugs. Naturally, its potential for causing fatalities is the reason for the second part of its name. And while there are other drugs that can be gray in color (e.g. certain types of heroin), the appearance of grey death is particularly striking. It has been compared to concrete or cement – generally coming in a concrete-like block or a powder that looks almost exactly like dry cement. Its foreboding look is perfectly aligned with its effects. Oddly enough, the source of its gray color is a mystery – the common combinations of drugs found in gray death should not result in a gray end product.
How Is Gray Death Taken?
Gray death is consumed in the same way heroin and other opioids are. Users inject, snort, smoke or orally ingest the drug. Due to the powerful opioids contained therein, whatever method of administration is used, the onset of effects is extremely rapid.
What Are The Effects Of Grey Death?
The effects of grey death are similar to those of other opioids, but can be expected to be more extreme and almost immediate. These include:
Miosis (extreme constriction of pupils)
Hyperhidrosis (sweaty, clammy skin)
Loss of Consciousness
Due to the potency of Gray Death, heart failure and respiratory depression experienced is often fatal.
Where does Gray Death Come From?
When grey death began showing up on the streets (and often in the systems of individuals who had experienced fatal overdoses), its origin was unknown. However, as its components became clear, so did the knowledge of where the drug came from.
Like the drugs it often contains, gray death is believed to largely come from overseas. Whether in its complete form or separately as its base ingredients, much of it is believed to be imported from China. Due to more lax control on synthetic drugs, they are still relatively easy to obtain from the Far East even though most of them have finally been scheduled as controlled substances in this region (soon after their increase in illicit use, these drugs were classified as Schedule I controlled substances at federal and state levels in the United States).
It is also believed that gray death is also smuggled across the border from Mexico. This would explain why it was first seen in Southern states such as Georgia and Alabama. From these Southern states, it is spread throughout the country. Now, there have been deaths attributed to gray death in states throughout the country including Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Why Do People Use Grey Death?
From the information given here, one question will likely come to mind: “Why would anyone use this drug?” While non drug users may not understand drug use in general, even many users of drugs such as heroin and cocaine have expressed fear of gray death and the possibility of unknowingly taking it. However, as the tragic results have shown, others actively seek it out. But why?
The answer lies with one of the most sinister features of drug use and addiction – tolerance. Though much is made of the potency of heroin (and with good reason), regular users develop a disturbingly high tolerance after some time. To an extent, this happens with any drug no matter how strong. As a result, heavy opioid users eventually find themselves requiring larger and larger doses of their drug of choice in order to achieve a high intense enough to satiate their cravings. This of course gets quite expensive when the drug abused is an opioid such as heroin or oxycodone. For this reason, many addicts have embraced powerful synthetic opioids like fentanyl which are cheaper and require very small doses for an intense effect.
A drug like Grey Death, then, becomes attractive to a select group of people. While certainly there are those simply looking for ‘the best high’, or one that will rival the feeling experienced when they first began taking opioids, there are others who simply no longer experience a powerful high from the intake of the usual types of drug. They believe that a drug like gray death will give them this, and further, that due to their extremely high tolerance for conventional opioids, they will not succumb to the drug as many others have.
Sadly, many are of course incorrect in the latter conclusion. Gray death’s ingredients, and the mystery of their volumes per sample, assures that most individuals taking it will overdose – likely fatally. The likelihood of the fatal overdose happening after their very first encounter is also high. To put the strength of gray death’s ingredients into perspective, a single flake of carfentanil can effectively tranquilize a 2,000 pound elephant. Many experts have made a grim statement that, while it may sound flippant, is a basic fact – users of grey death are unlikely to become addicts, as it is extremely unlikely they will live long enough to do so. Of course, at the end of the day, any drug abuse has many reasons behind it, often including unresolved issues. Therapy with experienced professionals is always recommended as part of treatment that will prevent future drug abuse.
Can Grey Death Overdoses Be Treated?
Like other opioid overdoses, the recommended treatment for a gray death overdose is naloxone. Popularly known as Narcan (the brand name of one preparation), naloxone blocks the effects of opioids by binding to opioid receptors instead of the opioid drug. However, gray death’s extreme danger rears its ugly head here as well.
Health professionals responding to grey death overdoses have reported that the drug is unusually resistant to naloxone. Individuals successfully revived after a grey death overdose have required multiple doses of naloxone, whereas one in usually sufficient in cases of heroin and prescription opioid overdose. Of course, in many cases, multiple administrations of naloxone had no effect whatsoever and responders were unable to save the user. Similar to the inability to compile information on addiction statistics, gray death’s long-term effects are unknown because anyone using it is unlikely to survive long enough to provide this data.
How To Help A Grey Death User
Abuse of any drug is a serious situation that should be treated as quickly as possible – opioid abuse particularly so. Even with this said, the abuse of gray death is one of the most dire scenarios of drug use. Overdose is always a possibility when dealing with opioid abuse – but when it comes to gray death, it becomes far more likely than not, with fatality in a very short timeframe being an absolute certainty. If you suspect someone you know is using gray death or considering it, it is imperative to approach them immediately. While you should always approach someone suffering from drug addiction with compassion, it is also important here to try to get them help before they use again, as it is tragically likely a single additional usage could end in death.
If you have used gray death or are considering doing so, you should reach out for help immediately. Regardless of assurances that a batch of gray death may be ‘powerful but safe’, no dealer truly knows what its composition is, and death is a far more likely result than a powerful high. There is a better way to live, free from the hold of addiction to opioids or any other drug.
The Satori Recovery Center in Laguna Beach, California, offers one of the country’s most innovative and effective recovery programs. In our beautiful, soothing facilities, we offer a program that includes a safe and comfortable detox, multiple therapies to suit different personalities including the revolutionary EDMR technique, fitness therapy and outdoor adventure therapy, and instruction on how to make a lasting improvement on your body and mind through activities like mindfulness and considerations such as nutrition. To find out more about how you can save yourself or a loved one from the dangers and pain of addiction, contact us today.
Recreational drug use is a term we hear used quite regularly – whether on the news, in articles or in conversation. On hearing the term, many of us think only of the use of certain drugs – the particular types often relying on the social norms of where we live. However, recreational drug use includes all manner of drugs – illegal, controlled substances, prescription drugs, and even legal substances many of us do not classify as drugs, like alcohol and nicotine. Recreational drug use is the use of any kind of drug at all to experience pleasurable effects. This differentiates it from medicinal drug use, which is meant to treat, alleviate or prevent symptoms of an illness or condition.
Perhaps due to the inclusion of the word ‘recreational’, this term is often used to refer to drugs we may consider ‘less serious’ such as cannabis. Similarly, recreational drug use is often thought of as ‘lighter’ use of a drug by a person who is completely in control of the use and partakes only occasionally. These are extremely dangerous misconceptions. Recreational drug users may start off by saying their drug use is a harmless dalliance that provides them pleasure now and then, but this practice regularly leads to addiction as well as a laundry list of other issues, including health problems, societal issues, and even incarceration. It is therefore extremely important that we understand what recreational drugs are, their use, how to spot signs of abuse and how to get help.
What Are The Most Common Recreational Drugs
Before getting into the specifics of their use, it’s helpful to know what types of drugs are most often used recreationally. Through data provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Data Archive, experts were able to compile a list of the 25 most used recreational drugs in the U.S. Unsurprisingly, those most easily accessible tend to be at the top of the list – that is, those that are legal or not as tightly controlled, either through law enforcement or through prescription. However, as you will see, there are exceptions.
Alcohol – It is highly unlikely that alcohol will ever lose its number one spot as the most used recreational drug. Completely legal across the U.S. (except for in a small number of ‘dry counties’), this depressant was used by an astounding 61.4% of those polled in 2017. While the legal age of purchase is 21, alcohol is notoriously easy for determined adolescents to obtain.
Tobacco – Similarly to alcohol, its legal status and ease of access make tobacco a popular recreational drug, with 31.1% of respondents reporting they used it recreationally. With the advent of vaping, there is a discussion about whether this number should be higher, as although liquid ‘vapes’ do not contain tobacco, they do contain the active ingredient nicotine.
Marijuana – While marijuana remains illegal on a federal level, many states have now decriminalized its use. Encouragingly, however, there has not been a significant rise in the level of use (at 17.7% in 2017). Still, its increased availability makes it all the more important to educate people, especially adolescents, about its use and inherent dangers.
Vicodin – This is the most popular drug that is part of the unfortunate opioid epidemic gripping our country. 3.17% of people reported using this drug recreationally – its prevalence likely due to how easily and often it is prescribed.
Phenethylamine Amphetamines (Aderrall etc) – Designed to treat conditions such as ADHD and narcolepsy, these amphetamines are used recreationally as powerful stimulants by 2.8% of the population.
Cocaine – Though this drug has not been available through prescription for a long time, it remains one of the more popular recreational drugs due to its powerful though fleeting euphoric effects. In its ‘crack cocaine’ form, a heightened effect has created addicts across the country.
Oxycodone – Better known by its most common proprietary name, OxyContin, this is one of the most notorious names in the opioid crisis. While Vicodin may be used recreationally by more people, ‘Oxy’ is responsible for a terrifying number of fatalities, as well as countless more overdoses. Extremely potent and highly addictive, its deadly effects have prompted a close look at the pharmaceutical industry and prescription practices.
Alprazolam (Xanax, etc) – Like OxyContin, Xanax is simply a brand name for a certain drug (alprazolam). A powerful tranquilizer, it has become a popular recreational drug in addition to being prescribed largely to insomnia sufferers.
MDMA – Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, commonly known as ecstasy or molly, is a popular ‘party drug’ known for its euphoric and hallucinogenic effects. A well-known issue with this drug is that its composition varies wildly from batch to batch – thus precisely the same dose can have completely different effects on an individual.
LSD – Lysergic acid diethylamide is well known as a uniquely hallucinogenic drug. The widely held belief that it has ‘gone out of style’ since the 1960s, however, is incorrect. While it does not share the dangers of overdose that opioids do, it’s powerful hallucinations can put users in mortal danger, and serious brain damage is a proven long term effect.
In addition to these 10 most used recreational drugs, others such as methamphetamines, Ritalin, Valium, Ambien, Ativan, Ketamine, ‘magic mushrooms’ and a host of opioid drugs figure heavily into the picture of recreational drug use. In addition, there are solutions and chemicals not considered drugs at all that are used in this way. Cough medicine, for instance, does contain small amounts of certain drugs – therefore when taken in excess, can provide mind-altering results. Particularly dangerous are volatile substances – gases, glues and aerosols that are inhaled for a short-lived euphoric effect. These can cause brain damage, and in certain cases, instant death. Even mouthwash is abused by certain individuals for the alcohol contained therein. Unfortunately, people searching for drugs to use recreationally have quite a wide range of options to choose from.
Why Do People Use Recreational Drugs?
Parents will often miss the fact that their child is a recreational drug user, or could ever become one, because of the view that only wild, rebellious individuals engage in such behavior. “Not my kid!” is a common refrain. However, it is important to realize that there are a huge number of reasons for and causes of recreational drug use, which results in people of all ages, beliefs, and walks of life falling victim. These include:
Peer Pressure – Though the term sounds clichéd, it is firmly rooted in reality. Pressure from other adolescents is difficult to resist at a time of one’s life when the goal is to be accepted.
Fitting in – For the same reason as above, adolescents (and some adults) choose on their own to use drugs recreationally because their peer group is doing so and they do not want to be excluded.
Experimentation – This reasoning is common regardless of age. The fact is, after hearing about ‘incredible’ experiences on a certain drug, an individual may be tempted to try it, often ‘just one time’, to see what all the fuss is about.
Increasing Creativity – Many drugs, especially hallucinogenics, are purported to increase creativity or change the creative process. As a result, a disproportionate number of artists, musicians, and others begin using certain drugs recreationally in pursuit of this effect.
Spiritual/Mind-Expanding Pursuits – While many of us will use meditation or yoga, others believe that drug use can take them to different, special places mentally or expand their ability to use their mind. A number of individuals who participated in extended drug use of this type and as a way to increase creativity stand as cautionary tales, eventually descending into mental illness or greatly reduced brain function.
Self Medication – This, it may seem, does not gel with the idea of ‘recreation’. However, many individuals are completely unaware they suffer from a particular medical condition, be it physical or mental. An excellent example is individuals suffering from undiagnosed anxiety or depression. The effects of certain drugs may provide them relief from the distressing symptoms of this disease, which they have just assumed is ‘how they are.’
Relaxation/Leisure – Especially for individuals with high-stress occupations or unhealthily busy lives, recreational drug use during their precious downtime can feel like a well-deserved way to maximize this time. Many an honor student, legal professional and law enforcement official/first responder partake in this kind of drug use.
Discovering Enjoyable Effects Through Legitimate Use– We all are familiar with the heart-breaking cases of individuals prescribed certain drugs that, after some time, found themselves helplessly addicted without even realizing it. However, there are also cases where the transition from therapeutic use to recreational is a conscious one. As the need for therapeutic use wanes, the euphoric or soothing side effects may become more apparent. For some, this may be a discovery that they are unwilling to give up.
The most recent research has uncovered an important fact – in nearly all cases, recreational drug use, and even more so drug dependency is caused by not just one factor but by a combination of many. In addition to the above, genetics, gender, age, psychological and physical issues, personal history, availability, and a host of other factors are likely to influence an individual’s drug use. They are not mutually exclusive – the possible combination of causes is almost endless. Beyond education and limiting availability, it is difficult to find a sure-fire way to prevent recreational drug use.
How To Tell If Someone Is Using Drugs Recreationally
Because some recreational drug users have not entered the addiction phase, it may be more difficult to tell if an individual is using drugs recreationally. Though some are more subtle, there are certain signs to look out for. It is important to note that a number of these can be attributed to puberty in adolescents and other factors, so it is extremely important to look at the entire picture before jumping to conclusions.
Changes in behavior – These can include staying out later, becoming more secretive, and participation in undesirable activities that previously would not have been expected.
Changes in mood/mood swings – Even without heavy use, drugs can have a noticeable effect on mood, especially immediately after use.
Changes in Social Groups – In both adolescents and adults, recreational drug use can see individuals begin to associate more with other drug users and neglect their original peer group.
Loss of Interest/Motivation – Drug use can cause a loss of interest in activities that were previously extremely important to an individual. It can also cause a lack of motivation to complete tasks related to schoolwork, family and societal responsibilities and even personal hygiene.
Loss or Gain of Appetite/Weight – While certain drugs such as marijuana stimulate the appetite, others like cocaine severely curb it. The result can be sudden and extreme fluctuations in appetite and weight.
Unusual Physiological Symptoms – Bloodshot eyes, dilated or constricted pupils, sores and rashes, unusual body odors, tremors, poor coordination and a host of other reactions may be signs of recreational drug use.
How to Get Help For Recreational Drug Use
By educating individuals (especially when young) and keeping lines of communication on the topic open, you can reduce the likelihood of recreational drug use. However, as mentioned before, the large number of factors at play make it impossible to guarantee prevention. If you believe that a friend or family member is participating in currently harmful or potentially dangerous recreational drug use, your first step should be to approach them in a non-confrontational, non-judgmental way. While the misconception of its harmlessness may be part of the decision to recreationally use drugs, it may also make individuals more willing to discuss it once they are approached in the right way. An open and honest discussion on the dangers, as well as the effects they may be oblivious to, is a good start to moving towards cessation of the drug use.
Many recreational drugs will not only be difficult to quit without help (to the surprise of many users), a professionally designed program that includes supervised detox, therapy, and nutritional direction greatly increases the safety of coming off drugs, which can be quite difficult on both the body and the mind. The Satori Recovery Center in Malibu, CA offers one of the country’s most effective recovery programs, including additional treatment facets such as fitness therapy, mindfulness/meditation and even adventure therapy – all of which teach individuals how to address their issues and fulfill their needs in healthy ways. To find out more about The Satori Recovery Center’s one-of-a-kind program, contact us today.
Having healthy boundaries is like building a lovely little fence around your life. But for most of us in recovery, the concept of boundaries is very new.
We often had limited or non existent internal boundaries or personal boundaries and most often, we were not honoring the boundaries of others.
Learning to set boundaries begins with total honesty. You must first get honest with yourself and then practice honesty in every area of your life.
This allows you to build integrity from the inside out.
Something I notice often with those in early recovery is that they either have loose boundaries (allowing anyone to pass through) or solid wall boundaries (no room for growth).
I love a fence analogy when it comes to boundaries, so that is what we will use here…
Loose boundaries: can be crossed easily through the openings or over the top
Stone wall boundaries: impenetrable. Won’t allow for movement or growth. Can cause isolation
Healthy boundaries: Allows for you to see through the slats and decide who is allowed in. Room for growth. Good height and adequate protection.
I often notice that those who have loose boundaries are also attached to a victim mindset. Taking off those victim goggles will definitely help you see things clearly.
We teach people how to treat us by what we allow.
And what we allow is what will continue!
Here’s a little truth bomb for you:
You are 100% responsible for your own life. This includes whom you allow in it, and what behaviors you are willing to accept.
If you would prefer to not constantly live in resentment, then I encourage you to take some action.
Setting healthy boundaries begins with self awareness. Sit down and make a list of things that you would like to change about how others treat you. Then I challenge you to look at that list and see how many of those behaviors relate to you.
My first list included things like: I hate being judged, I dislike gossip, I don’t like being lied to.
But when I did a personal inventory, I was the one judging, many of my relationships were based around gossip, and I had lied to pretty much everyone in my life.
The process of change starts with you. Make changes in yourself and watch how it changes the world around you.
Now the hard part: setting boundaries with others.
As you begin to honor your personal space and your time, you will notice that some people around you will not be happy with your choices.
They may have liked that they could ask you for favors all the time knowing you would say yes. Or that you were the one to call with the latest gossip. But as you slowly back away from these behaviors, you will grow exponentially.
This is one of the ways that you show up for yourself in life. HONORING your own needs.
You may lose some people in your life and that’s OK. You will begin to attract other people who are trying to live their best lives and those people will become your new tribe.
Work on strengthening your internal boundaries by staying strong in yourconvictions and then it will be easier to set external boundaries.
You will be so happy when you have built a lovely little fence around your life.
A lot of people think that balance is just an illusion. That our lives are so busy and overwhelming these days that achieving any semblance of balance is an unattainable goal.
I would like to openly disagree with that. I look at my life and my recovery as one in the same. Without my recovery I would not have a life. So to me, recovery is a lifestyle and that lifestyle requires balance.
I imagine balance as if it were a walk on a tightrope. You are walking theline (can you hear Johnny Cash singing it? ).
Sometimes you lean too far to one side in a situation (i.e. getting angry, allowing people to cross your boundaries, lying), but you recognize the need to get your balance back and you do that by correcting the behavior (healthy boundaries, amends, rigorous honesty).
The ability to recognize the desire to correct the imbalance is due to being substance free. You are thinking clearly and you can feel when things are getting out of balance.
You know that if you keep leaning too far in one direction that you could fall. You have fallen before and you remember all too well how that felt. You don’t want to fall again. So you make a strong effort to regain your balance.
I also believe that we each have an invisible safety harness. For some, that harness is their Higher Power.
But the safety harness can be whatever you use as your sober support system. Your family, your community, your sponsor. We all must have a safety harness in place. We cannot do this recovery thing alone.
If that were the case, we would have quit substances by sheer willpower and recovery would be non existent.
That safety harness has our backs when we feel like we can’t take another step and we need to hang for a little bit just to get our bearings. That strong support is a safety requirement for all of us.
Walking the line through life may sound like a difficult task, but I find it to be just enough of a challenge to keep me on my toes. That fine balance between accepting life on life’s terms, but not accepting mistreatment. Being of service without being taken advantage of. Taking action in our lives without trying to control the outcome of situations.
Some days we feel like we are zipping along on our line, and other days we take cautious baby steps. The important thing is that we keep going. Living life in sober recovery is a beautiful gift. So walk that line with joy inyour heart and take confident steps.