The Drug Enforcement Administration is warning the American public about an increase in the trafficking of xylazine, an animal sedative that is often mixed with deadly synthetic opioids and goes by the street name “tranq.”
DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said mixtures of fentanyl and xylazine have been seized in nearly every state.
“Xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier,” Ms. Milgram said Monday in a public safety alert.
Drug users are increasingly adding xylazine to opioid drugs to extend the euphoria they get from a high.
However, the drug is causing nasty skin abscesses and ulcers, sometimes resulting in amputations.
Officials from San Francisco to the Northeast have sounded the alarm about tranq, and the White House drug czar is considering whether to label tranq as an emerging threat, a major step that could increase awareness and speed treatments.
Ms. Milgram said 23% of fentanyl powder seizures and 7% of the fentanyl pills intercepted by the DEA in 2022 contained xylazine.
U.S. officials are worried the emerging threat will only worsen the drug crisis since the combination of drugs can increase users’ chances of a fatal overdose.
Xylazine is not an opioid, so overdose-reversing drugs like naloxone will not be effective against the sedative, although experts “always recommend administering naloxone if someone might be suffering a drug poisoning,” the DEA alert said.
About 107,000 people died of drug overdoses in the U.S. from August 2021 to August 2022, with 66% of those deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
Mexican cartels make fentanyl in clandestine labs, often using precursor chemicals from China, and send it across the border.
The Food and Drug Administration recently said it would increase scrutiny of xylazine imports. Agency staff will be empowered to detain shipments of xylazine ingredients and finished doses if they appear to violate the law.
• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.
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