Animal sedative found mixed with fentanyl; DEA issues warning
AUSTIN, Texas - "Sleep-cut." "Tranq." "Zombie drug."
These are some of the "street names" that may be used for an animal sedative that’s now being found in illicit drugs, namely fentanyl-laced drugs.
"Our labs have detected it here in the Central Texas area," said Tyson Hodges, assistant special agent in charge of the DEA’s Austin office.
Agent Hodges said they started observing the increase roughly a year ago.
In 2022, nationwide, approximately 23% of fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl pills seized by the DEA contained xylazine.
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"It's actually regulated by the Food and Drug Administration," said Agent Hodges. "DEA is working with the FDA to see if we can get it scheduled as a controlled substance."
On Tuesday, a bipartisan bill was filed that would do just that - classifying the illicit use of xylazine as a Schedule III drug.
On Thursday, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced new efforts to combat the spread of the drug.
"The plan today in light of xylazine’s threat is two-fold, a one-two punch: fight and fund."
Sen. Schumer announced new funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and called for the DEA to designate more manpower specifically toward xylazine.
"Go after this damn drug in every way you can," said Sen. Schumer.
The Texas Dept. of Health Services issued an advisory to healthcare workers this month.
"It's the combination that really is the concerning thing here," said Chris Van Deusen, director of media relations for DSHS. "With fentanyl, the high comes on very, very quickly and then dissipates, so it seems like the thinking behind combining it with xylazine is that it sort of prolongs the high feeling… Of course, that doesn't come without some possibly very, very serious consequences."
Fentanyl alone, just two milligrams of it, can potentially kill. However, at least with fentanyl, an opioid overdose reversal medication can be effective.
That’s not the case for xylazine.
"There's not something like naloxone that's going to reverse those effects immediately," said Van Deusen.
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According to the NIH, xylazine is "a central nervous system depressant that can cause drowsiness and amnesia and slow breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure to dangerously low levels." Long-term use can also cause skin ulcers.