WINTER PARK, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Heroin is killing people at a rate never seen before in the U.S. and in Florida. The epidemic is even visible in affluent neighborhoods in Winter Park.
"In the state of Florida alone in 2015, there were 3,900 deaths that were contributed to opioids," explains Pam Marcum, of the Winter Park Police Department. "Here in Winter Park, we've had nine -- just last year -- we had nine either heroin-related deaths or near deaths."
But the newest trend has investigators thrown for a loop. It's a mix of carfentanil (or carfentanyl) -- a mixture of an elephant tranquilizer and heroin. It's called "Gray Death," and it's so strong, even the smallest dose is killing people.
"What makes it so dangerous is that it only takes a flake, literally half-a-grain of sand to be fatal to a human being, and it can be absorbed or it can be inhaled," says Deneen Kilcrease with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
The Drug Enforcement Administration tells FOX 35 that Gray Death has killed people in Georgia, and it's only a matter of time before it appears in Florida. In Georgia, police laboratory technicians who test the deadly combo are taking extra precautions to make sure they are not exposed. Now, Winter Park P.D. is trying to figure out how to train its officers, so they don't touch the drug if they come in contact with it.
"They're worried about you actually taking it in through your skin, versus regular heroin [which] isn't that much of a threat. It [Gray Death] can kill you or make you very sick. I have heard that, but we haven't had any experience with that," Marcum says, "but we're in the process of training our officers."
No local agency we spoke to has encountered the drug, but the Orlando Police Department tells us it takes toxicology 8-12 weeks to determine the chemical makeup of a drug, so all police departments are on the lookout.
"Hopefully it's doesn't come, but if it does we are working towards that, correct." Marcum continues.
There is an anti-overdose drug specifically made for heroin called Naloxone, but the carfentanil and fentynal mix might be too great to reverse the effects of Gray Death.