New York City officials have issued a dire warning about the rise of a “zombie drug” that can have appalling effects on users — including eating away at their flesh — as cities across the nation grapple with the horrifying narcotic’s spread.
The animal tranquilizer xylazine — also known as “tranq” — can create a catastrophic reaction when mixed with other drugs like heroin, cocaine or fentanyl, sometimes causing users’ skin and muscle to begin rotting away, according to authorities.
“Xylazine is a huge problem for the entire country,” said Frank Tarentino, who heads the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York division.
“Fentanyl is the deadliest drug we have ever faced. When you add xylazine, it becomes even deadlier.”
Authorities in New York, as well as other major cities like Los Angeles, have reported an increase in the presence of the xylazine, which is often used to cut other drugs like heroin and cocaine because it is incredibly cheap.
Cutting drugs with the tranquilizer — which is used legally for horses, cattle and other animals — is even cheaper than fentanyl, allowing drug dealers to increase their profit margin, according to Tarentino.
While mixing it with other drugs creates a more intense, long-lasting high, it also puts drug users at a greater risk.
One of the most terrifying components of xylazine is that its effects cannot be reversed using Narcan.
“Since xylazine is a sedative, muscle relaxer naloxone (known as Narcan) does not work to reverse its effects,” Tarentino told The Post.
“The American public has no idea what they are getting when they buy street drugs. The percentage of street drugs that have fentanyl is extremely high, and the percentage of xylazine is growing,” Tarentino said.
Officials have tracked the drug in unintentional overdoses since at least fall 2020.
Overdose deaths involving xylazine increased by 36% between January and October 2022 from the same time period in 2021, according to a press release from the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York.
In 2021, 19% of opioid-involved overdose deaths involved xylazine, according to data from the city’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Last year, nearly 1,000 pounds of powdered fentanyl and drug mixtures containing fentanyl and/or heroin were confiscated in cases handled by the special narcotics prosecutor’s office, the NYPD and other agencies.
There were also 950,000 counterfeit pills containing fentanyl and other substances, such as xylazine, seized that year, marking an increase of more than 425% from 2021.
In 2022, roughly 23% of fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl pills seized by the DEA nationwide contained xylazine. During just this Calendar year, nearly 15% of all DEA seizures found xylazine.
The majority — a whopping 75% of DEA exhibits containing xylazine — were obtained from the New York City metropolitan region, including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, officials said.
The DEA issued a public safety warning in March saying it had seized xylazine and fentanyl mixtures in 48 out of 50 states, excluding South Dakota and Wyoming.
Last month, the Biden administration deemed fentanyl mixed with xylazine as an emerging threat to the US.
“As a physician, I am deeply troubled about the devastating impact of the fentanyl-xylazine combination, and as President Biden’s drug policy advisor, I am immensely concerned about what this threat means for the Nation,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The rapid spread of tranq also comes as 72 million lethal doses of fentanyl were seized in New York state in 2022, though the total DEA haul came to 1.9 million fentanyl-laced prescription pills and 1,958 pounds of fentanyl across the state, officials said earlier this year.