By: Bethany Blankley
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has issued a public alert warning Americans about the “sharp increase in the trafficking of fentanyl mixed with Xylazine,” an animal tranquilizer referred to on the streets as “Tranq.”
It did so after the FDA, CDC, and multiple state agencies issued warnings about Xyzaline being detected in an increasing number of illicit drug mixtures and a growing number of overdose deaths nationwide.
“Xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said. “DEA has seized Xylazine and fentanyl mixtures in 48 of 50 states. The DEA Laboratory System is reporting that in 2022 approximately 23% of fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl pills seized by the DEA contained Xylazine.”
Xylazine and fentanyl drug mixtures place users at a higher risk of death, DEA warns. Because Xylazine isn’t an opioid, Narcan and its generic version, Naloxone, don’t reverse opioid overdose effects. The brand and generic drugs have been proven to successfully reverse opioid overdoses if administered quickly enough. However, the DEA, FDA and other agencies still recommend that they be administered for suspected opioid overdoses and poisonings.
Federal and state agencies also warn that those who inject drug mixtures containing Xylazine or are exposed to it can cause severe, necrotic skin ulcerations, described as “skin rot,” which may lead to amputation.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 107,735 Americans died between August 2021 and August 2022 from drug poisonings, with 66% of them involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
Two Mexican cartels, the Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel (JNGC), are “using chemicals largely sourced from China,” the DEA said, which “are primarily responsible for the vast majority of the fentanyl that is being trafficked in communities across the United States.”
Multiple states have issued warnings and their medical examiners have been screening for Xylazine in toxicology panels.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody on Wednesday pointed to the DEA’s public alert and said Xylazine is a Schedule I controlled substance in Florida, meaning it’s a crime to possess or sell it.
She also said, “xylazine is making one of the deadliest drugs in history, fentanyl, even deadlier. … There has never been a more dangerous time to take a chance on any illicit substance, and this drug is only making the problem worse. I’m urging everyone to never use illicit drugs, just one pill or one use can kill.”
According to a Florida Medical Examiners Commission report, despite the fact that the commission didn’t request reporting of Xylazine, many districts reported deaths with 236 occurrences of Xylazine from January to December 2021.
Multiple state agencies are working to develop a way to efficiently and quickly test for it, are publishing warnings and working with overdose prevention centers to test for it.
Connecticut’s chief medical examiner reported the number of unintentional drug overdoses linked to Xylazine doubled from 2019 to 2020, according to a CDC report. Medical examiners in Vermont found that tranq-linked overdose deaths also nearly doubled from 2021 to 2022.
While Xylazine has been detected in drugs in the northeast for over a decade, increasing reports of it being detected in the west prompted agencies in California and Arizona to issue recent warnings. Arizona’s also states Mexican cartels are “using xylazine as a cutting agent for fentanyl products.”
According to the CDC, the greatest number of overdoses linked to Xylazine have been reported in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Fentanyl overdoses and poisonings remain the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 18 and 45.