Hamilton County had 403 overdose deaths in 2016, according to the coroner.
File photo of Gray Death
CINCINNATI -- Hamilton County's coroner has a warning for anyone using drugs in Greater Cincinnati.
“If you’re choosing to use drugs right now, you really are taking a gamble,” Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco said.
And Sammarco isn't just referring to heroin, fentanyl or a relativley new drug known as "Gray Death." She said cocaine mixed with fentanyl and a rise in carfentanil is also causing hundreds of deaths.
“We’ve seen a 30 percent increase in cocaine," Sammarco said. "I know that that’s also been mixed with fentanyl and different fentanyl combinations.”
“Gray Death,” a street drug resembling concrete that surfaced last fall in Hamilton County, is often laced with heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil, furanyl fentanyl or acrylfentanyl, Sammarco said.
“We’ve seen a lot of different combinations -- along with cocaine -- in this, and so we don’t consider the ‘Gray Death’ as one single combination of drugs,” she said.
Sammarco said in a news conference Monday that opiate-related overdose deaths are on the rise in Hamilton County.
The coroner's office recorded 100 more opiate-related overdose deaths in 2016 than 2015, Sammarco said -- and 342 of the 403 overdoses in 2016 involved at least one kind of opiate.
The coroner’s office has already recorded hundreds of overdoses in the first four months of 2017.
“This year to date, we already have 221 suspected drug overdoses in Hamilton County,” Sammarco said.
The coroner’s office is unsure how many have died from “Gray Death.” It’s hard to separate those overdoses because of the number of opiates in the drug, Sammarco said.
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The drug poses unique challenges. It does not contain any specific drugs, so it’s difficult to determine the concentration.
“It’s synthetic...who knows what they’re mixing in this stuff,” she said.
For resources and more heroin-related coverage, go to wcpo.com/heroin.