LEXINGTON, SC (WIS) - A lethal drug cocktail is setting up camp in South Carolina.
The mystery concoction goes by many names: "China White," "Tango and Cash," and "Murder Eight." It's a drug we all know: heroin. But now, in epic proportions, dealers are cutting it with synthetic opiates like fentanyl and carfentanil.
Lt. Robby Lint runs the Lexington County Sheriff's Department's Narcotics Division.
"It's everywhere. The increase has come - it's made it," Lt. Lint said. "It's not just nationally you see it in the big cities and all the other big states and all that. It's everywhere. And it's here in Lexington County."
In 2016, there were 44 overdose deaths in Lexington County. So far in 2017, there have been 25 overdose deaths, with the coroner attributing 18 of those to opioid overdoses.
It's worse in Richland County: in 2016, there were 44 opioid overdose deaths. Through June 2017, the county has already topped the 44 overdose death.
"It's across the board touching everybody," Lt. Lint said. "It's not your typical what we're used to hearing or seeing drug addict."
In fact, white males between the ages of 25 to 34 and 34 to 55 are the most likely group to overdose. According to DHEC, males are 40 percent more likely to overdose than women.
And those overdoses aren't necessarily from pills they're buying on the street. They're leftover pills in medicine cabinets that fall into the wrong hands.
"It's frightening. There are things in this world that scare me and this is one of them," Lt. Lint said. "I have kids and it just scares the crap out of me that it's out there and it's so accessible."
Carfentanil is a synthetic used as an elephant tranquilizer. It's 100 times stronger than fentanyl, which is 100 times stronger than heroin. One grain of carfentanil is enough to kill you, making it harder and harder for the overdose antidote, Narcan, to bring you back to life.
The tragedy buried under the science is an addict constantly searching for that lethal dose.
"They know they've had a friend who died from an overdose. And it was probably some type of gray death, fentanyl or carfentanil. And they will tell you to point blank, 'I wanna try that,'" Lint said. "I know my friend died from it but that must have been some high I wanna try that high."
Whether you breathe it, ingest it, or just touch it, you could overdose. It means law enforcement has had to change their approach.
LCSD no longer field test drugs, use a buddy system for officers and they always double glove. Lt. Lint said it's not worth putting his officers at risk.
"Handling this stuff is dangerous enough as it is," Lt. Lint said. "But we don't want to take any chances by field testing it and something happening to the officers."
This downward spiral has left an opening for the birth of what's called "Gray Death." The drug has already taken hold in Georgia, Alabama, and Ohio.
It's the deadliest cocktail of all – a smattering of heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil and the synthetic opioid "U-47700."
Since July 2016, SLED has already seen 22 drug submissions containing U-47700 and 35 containing fentanyl. And to Lt. Lint, this likely means "Gray Death" is knocking on South Carolina's door.
"There's no doubt in my mind that it's here," Lt. Lint said. "It's made it to South Carolina."