Claims made by Bloomington Police Chief Booker Hodges this week regarding a cocktail of synthetic opioids referred to as "gray death" are under scrutiny.
Speaking at a press conference Thursday, Hodges announced the seizure of the drugs – so called for their gray appearance – following a recent search warrant in the city, and expressed extreme concern over the discovery, claiming the drugs are resistant to the opioid antidote Narcan, also known as Nalaxone.
However, this claim has received immediate pushback from drug experts, with medical toxicologist Ryan Marino telling FOX 9 that Hodges' commentary was "quite dangerous" and factually incorrect, and that no opioids are confirmed to be resistant to Narcan.
There have been many claims in recent years that new, super-powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil are "resistant to Nalaxone."
But the Center for Health Policy and law says that this is not the case. It notes that powerful synthetic opioids still respond to Narcan, but that due to their potency, Narcan is required to be administered much more quickly after overdose and in a greater amount.
Dr. Elizabeth Ambrose, an associate professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Minnesota's Masonic Cancer Center, told Bring Me The News that this is essentially correct.
However, she notes that a "highly potent and lethal combination of opioids" such as Gray Death has the potential to cause instant death.
"Technically, this combination is not 'resistant' to Narcan, but reversal of 'Gray Death' can require far larger doses of Narcan than is needed to counteract typical 'street' opioids, and yes, rapid administration is critical," she said.
In 2017 the National Heroin Coordination Group notes that claims powerful synthetic analogs render Narcan ineffective are "incorrect and misleading," acknowledging that additional doses of Narcan may be required in such cases to fully resuscitate a patient.
"If administered quickly and at a sufficient dose, naloxone and other opioid antagonists are effective against all opioids regardless of their potency," the statement said.
According to Bloomington police, both "Gray Death" and "black tar" heroin-style fentanyl were found Tuesday during a search of a home in the 10300 block of Devonshire Circle. Authorities additionally seized over 755 "m-box" fentanyl pills.
Two suspects were arrested.
While speaking at a press conference Thursday, Hodges said the department is working to raise awareness about the drugs, which might be unrecognizable to most people, including police.
The "gray death" substances looks like mud, he said, and the "black tar" substances could be mistaken for the tar left behind by smoking marijuana from a pipe.
"That looks like dirt to me," he said, pointing to a 'gray death' sample. "If I saw that, I would think it was dirt."
There have been multiple reports over the years identifying a "gray death" style of drug cocktail, though there doesn't appear to be any consensus of its constitution, though the elephant tranquilizer carfentanil and fellow synthetic opioid fentanyl are typically mentioned.
Bloomington is currently experiencing a record year for overdoses, with 15 deaths already so far this year. There were six recorded overdose deaths in the city last year.