Animal sedative linked to fatal overdoses in Monroe, Wayne Counties

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – A terrifying drug that eats away at skin and limbs is blamed for dozens of deaths locally.

Xylazine is the drug that has caused deadly overdoses in Upstate New York. In Monroe County, police report nearly 60 fatal overdoses linked to the drug for 2022. In Wayne County, police report three fatal overdoses linked to the drug for 2022, and 10 under investigation.

Monroe County Deputy Mike Favata said there’s currently no way to test for Xylazine, and Narcan is not effective against it.

“We’ve come across it, but it’s never been a target of any investigation,” said Favata. He said there is no specific age group being targeted.

“Addiction hits across the board,” he said.

Additionally, the DEA announced on Monday a sharp increase in fatal overdoses nationwide, linked to Xylazine. The DEA Laboratory System said about 23% of fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl pills seized in 2022 contained Xylazine.

Senator Schumer is calling for a crackdown. He’s proposing a three-pronged approach to tackling the dangerous issue. This includes more funding towards police agencies, more funding for addiction services and a partnership with FDA and Drug Enforcement Agency.

“Just recently, the FDA teamed with the DEA, and they now have the ability to stop it right at the border,” said Schumer, who said the concern lies with foreign suppliers. “We’re asking them to go all out, to stop it from coming in, because most of this comes from China.”

How does this drug effect the body?

“The drug, when injected, can cause severe wounds to the skin, all the way to the bone,” said Schumer. “It creates dead tissue, breathing and heartrate issues. And infections from these wounds often lead to people losing limbs, so it’s a terrifying drug.”

“At the injection site it will create a wound, that creates an immune response to the drug,” said Jim Hates, Director of Wayne County Mental and Behavioral Health. “Subsequently, that wound becomes infected, and then the infection sets in.”

Specifically, Schumer is pushing for a 66% increase to $537 million dollars for the federal COPS program. He said this would allow state and local law enforcement officers to apply for awards of up to $4 million dollars through the COPS Service Office’s Anti-Heroin Task Force (AHTF) Program that gets grants to police to track down fentanyl distribution and drug trafficking.

He said this legislation currently has bipartisan support.