The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warned that there has been a sharp uptick in the amount of fentanyl containing a powerful tranquilizer that may lead to amputation and increases the chance of death for users of the drug.
According to a release on Monday, the DEA has found fentanyl mixed with xylazine, also known as “Tranq,” in 48 out of 50 states, and in 2022, around 23 percent of fentanyl powder and 7 percent of fentanyl pills seized by the department contained the veterinary-approved tranquilizer.
“Xylazine and fentanyl drug mixtures place users at a higher risk of suffering a fatal drug poisoning,” read the release. “Because xylazine is not an opioid, naloxone (Narcan) does not reverse its effects. Still, experts always recommend administering naloxone if someone might be suffering a drug poisoning.”
“People who inject drug mixtures containing xylazine also can develop severe wounds, including necrosis—the rotting of human tissue—that may lead to amputation,” the DEA added.
Xylazine has also been referred to as the “zombie” drug for its sedative effects on its users and its potential to cause flesh to eat itself from the inside out. The drug has seen a surge across the U.S. as well, with Southern states seeing a 193 percent increase between 2020 and 2021 and a 1,127 percent increase in the number of xylazine-related overdose deaths.
The drug’s popularly can partly be blamed on its relative affordability, with Newsweek previously reporting that a kilogram of xylazine can be bought for as little as $10.
DEA Administrator Anne Milgram has previously stated that fentanyl is the “single deadliest drug threat” the U.S. has ever faced. In 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 107,375 fatal drug overdoses, with 67 percent linked to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
According to Monday’s release, two drug cartels based in Mexico—Sinaloa and Jalisco—are “primarily responsible for the vast majority of the fentanyl that is being trafficked” across the U.S., and largely rely on chemicals sourced from China.
On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York announced a three-pronged attack for how his state can help curb xylazine-related drug overdoses, including a nudge to the Food and Drug Administration to step up efforts to track down sources of the xylazine.
Schumer also proposed funneling $537 million to a new program to help stop xylazine trafficking, reported Spectrum News 1, as well as a boost to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
“It’s a terrifying drug,” Schumer said. “These evil drug traffickers who are always figuring out ways to hurt our kids and our people have figured out that when you lace xylazine with fentanyl or heroin or some other drug, the high is even greater.”
Newsweek has reached out to the White House via email for comment.
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