Xylazine, an animal sedative, now being found mixed with Fentanyl in illicit opioids and counterfeit pills

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Most of the illegal drug supply is now laced with some amount of Fentanyl — which can be deadly enough, but there’s another substance to worry about too. It’s called Xylazine. Its intended purpose is to tranquilize animals, but it’s now being cooked down into a powder and mixed with illicit opioids or pressed into counterfeit pills sold to humans.

“Xylazine is, now, the new adulterant finding its way into the drug supply, and it’s making overdose even more risky,” says Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, the Commissioner of the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports. That’s because Xylazine is not an opioid, so drugs like Narcan don’t work to reverse its effects,

“We don’t know exactly how much Xylazine is in the drug supply because we are just now starting to test for it but I can tell you, for example, in NYC almost 20% of overdose deaths last year had Xylazine in their systems,” Dr. Cunningham says.

Locally, the New York State Attorney General warned of the prevalence of Xylazine during a press conference announcing the arrest of dozens of individuals who were trafficking drugs across the Rochester and Finger Lakes region.

Xylazine is meant to tranquilize animals. It’s known on the streets as “Tranq” — in humans it can cause deep wound infections that often require amputation.

Drugs laced with Xylazine have saturated parts of Philadelphia and Los Angeles so deeply that drug treatment professionals have been driving around wound-care vans trying to reach those in need of care before they lose a limb.

That’s why the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports is now providing free drug-testing strips to anyone who wants them. During the first few weeks the strips were made available, “we had close to 90k test strips for Fentanyl and 90k for Xylazine shipped out to people,” Dr. Cunningham tells News10NBC. “So, it’s incredible how much people want it, need it and it’s an effective tool where people can stay safe and stay alive.”

So, what do people do if the drug they want to take confirms the presence of either Fentanyl or Xylazine? “They can not use, they can use less than they ordinarily would use, they can use and have others there and present so that if they do overdose that 911 call can be made, or so that rescue breathing can be administered or Narcan can be administered,” Dr. Cunningham says.

For more information about the testing strips here.