WASHINGTON (WPIX) — The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has issued a public safety alert warning Americans about the widespread threat of fentanyl mixed with xylazine, an animal tranquilizer commonly referred to as “tranq.”
“Xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier,” said DEA Administrator Ann Milgram. “DEA has seized xylazine and fentanyl mixtures in 48 of 50 states.”
The DEA said xylazine and fentanyl drug mixtures place users at a higher risk of suffering a fatal drug overdose.
Xylazine is an FDA-approved drug used in animals as a sedative and pain reliever. It can depress breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature to critical levels.
The side effects in humans, which can be serious and life-threatening, are much like those typically seen with opioid use. Despite this, the DEA warns naloxone, or Narcan, can’t be used to reverse the effects of xylazine as it can with opioids.
“Still, experts always recommend administering naloxone if someone might be suffering a drug poisoning,” the DEA said.
Among the side effects of tranq are ulcers that crop up on various parts of the body, which sometimes lead to the loss of fingers or limbs.
Some experts have said xylazine was introduced illegally into the human drug supply to extend the high of heroin and fentanyl.
Xylazine-positive overdose deaths increased in all regions of the U.S. from 2020 to 2021, DEA data shows, though it isn’t clear when such deaths were recorded.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 107,735 Americans died from drug poisonings between August 2021 and August 2022, with 66% of those deaths involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The chemicals used to produce fentanyl come from China and are exported to Mexican drug cartels, which make fentanyl in clandestine labs south of the U.S. border.
Last month, the FDA said it would restrict imports of xylazine, meaning shipments of the animal tranquilizer face heightened FDA scrutiny. Shipments of the drug, as well as the ingredients used to make it, could also be detained to ensure they are meant for legitimate use.
The Hill’s Nathaniel Weixel contributed to this report.