“Opioid Abuse and ‘Gray Death’”

The United States is home to approximately 5% of the world’s population, yet we use 80% of the world’s opiates, according to the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians. The CDC says, “The number of prescription opioids sold in the United States since 1999 has nearly quadrupled, yet the amount of pain that Americans reported hasn’t changed overall.”  Tragically, in America, narcotic overdose deaths now surpass deaths from murders and fatal car accidents. Pain management expert, Dr. Aneesh Singla, in a new book, Why It Hurts: A Physician’s Insights on the Purpose of Pain, discusses the current opioid crisis, the myth of “zero pain,” and why it’s important to keep patients functional in the face of pain.  Singla said, “If you continually strive toward zero pain, opiate therapy will fail, leading to overuse of these medications. I believe that pain is protective to us and that opiates will never cure pain 100%.”  There is a new and dangerous opioid combo that underscores the ever-changing nature of the US addiction crisis and it is being called “gray death.”  The drug looks like concrete mix and varies in consistency from a hard, chunky material to a fine powder. The substance is a combination of several opioids blamed for thousands of fatal overdoses nationally, including heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil—sometimes used to tranquilize large animals like elephants—and a synthetic opioid called U–47700.

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