JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. -- The drug named “Pink” or U-47700 is said to be more powerful than heroin and is easily purchased with just a few key strokes.
Officers at the Johnson County Crime Lab say the drug is one of the most dangerous they've seen come through the crime lab. In fact, it’s already blamed for more than three deaths in the county.
One metro woman told FOX 4’s Nicole DiAntonio she just lost her brother to the drug in 2015, and now wants to warn others.
“He looked normal. Kept begging him please, just breathe, just breathe,” said Beck Leahew, Michael Leahew’s sister.
Leahew was described as an All-American guy, who was a protective older brother and dad to two children. He was 38 years old when he died.
“June 9th, my mom called me in a panic saying that I needed to come over here right away,” Beck said.
The culprit was the dangerous, synthetic opioid.
“We had no idea. I never heard of it. His wife who is a trauma nurse had never heard of it. My mom who is a nurse in a doctor’s office had never heard of it,” Beck said.
The drug so powerful you could go into cardiac arrest just by touching it. Authorities worry about how easy it is to buy online. FOX 4 looked, and had no trouble, taking just three clicks to order a drug more powerful than heroin for $50.
“Anger. I was incredibly angry. The detective had written down what he found... that 47700 and so I just used my phone to do a quick search and in the top link that came up was a website selling it. It wasn't even a website saying what it was, it was just a website selling it,” Beck said.
The deadly combination caught in the internet’s web is also posing a risk to law enforcement.
“If they touch these with their skin, it can also cause problems for first responders. They have to be very careful about these types of situations because somethings it can be assimilated right through your skin,” said Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe.
“Even for us in the laboratory, we have to be very careful ourselves to make sure we are not inhaling we're getting any of this material on our skin,” said Valerie Kamb in the Johnson County Crime Lab.
Federal authorities have confirmed 46 deaths around the county, in the last year- and they worry the number may be much higher because the drug is hard to detect in an autopsy. Four states have already banned the deadly drug, but it's legal in Kansas and Missouri.
Howe says until something is done on the state level, the widespread use of the drug is nearly impossible to stop.
“These manufacturers watch what the states do as far as declaring them a controlled substance, they tweak the molecular structure of these drugs so they fall outside the criminal laws,” Howe explained.
Until then, Beck finds comfort in her favorite picture of her older brother; a picture taken during Thanksgiving 10 years ago. The memory helps her through the holiday season.
“How happy he was that day. How happy we all are on the holidays and we had him. And knowing that we won't get that again,” she said.
Last week, federal authorities banned Pink, but Kansas wants its own law on the books, and lawmakers will take that up in January. FOX 4 reached out to Missouri leaders, and while they`re studying it, no one had answers on what to do about the drug.
FOX 4 purchased this drug before the ban went into effect. Authorities were aware of our investigation, and we asked the crime lab to destroy the drug.