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The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said Monday that authorities seized fentanyl mixed with a pharmaceutical drug used to sedate animals in 48 states, warning the American public of a widespread threat.
Authorities said in a public safety alert that the agency confiscated Xylazine, also known as “tranq,” and fentanyl mixtures, which could cause severe wounds, including necrosis that may lead to amputation.
“Xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier,” Administrator Anne Milgram said in a news release.
Milgram said the DEA Laboratory System reported approximately 23% of fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl pills seized by the DEA contained Xylazine in 2022.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse labels Xylazine as a non-opioid veterinary tranquilizer that has been linked to the increasing number of overdose deaths nationwide.
“Research has shown Xylazine is often added to illicit opioids, including fentanyl, and people report using xylazine-containing fentanyl to lengthen its euphoric effects,” the institute’s website reads. “Most overdose deaths linked to both xylazine and fentanyl also involved additional substances, including cocaine, heroin, benzodiazepines, alcohol, gabapentin, methadone, and prescription opioids.”
Between 2015 and 2020, the Northeastern region of the U.S. saw the largest impact from overdose deaths involving Xylazine, with Pennsylvania increasing from 2% of overdose deaths nearly 26%. Maryland reported 19% of all drug overdoses in 2021 involved Xylazine, and 10% in Connecticut in 2020.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 107,735 Americans died between August 2021 and August 2022 from drug poisonings, with 66% of those deaths involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl, according to the news release.
Authorities said experts always recommend administering naloxone if someone might be overdosing on drugs, although Narcan does not reverse effects on non-opioids.
DEA authorities blamed the vast majority of fentanyl trafficked into the United States on the Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco Cartel in Mexico, which primarily source the chemicals from China.
The federal agency’s latest public safety announcement comes nearly two years after its last one when authorities warned the public about increases in the lethality and availability of fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills, which was further updated to say that six out of ten fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.