Overdose deaths from fentanyl mixed with xylazine increased by 276% in three years

The states with the highest rates of overdose deaths related to the combination of the two drugs are Maryland, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that overdose deaths related to illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF) mixed with xylazine have increased by 276% in just three years.

The CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report revealed that the monthly percentage of IMF-involved deaths with xylazine increased from 2.9% (January 2019) to 10.9% (June 2022).

mm7226a4-H by Veronica Silveri+

Xylazine, "an emerging threat"

Xylazine is a non-opioid sedative approved only for veterinary use in large animals such as horses or cows. However, because of its low cost and ease of acquisition, the substance is also being used by traffickers to mix with other drugs such as fentanyl.

A Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) report indicated that mixing these two substances causes excessive drowsiness, hypertension, tachycardia and raw wounds in the soft tissues of the skin (rotting of the skin) which could turn into patches of dead flesh (similar to bedsores). One of the most dangerous factors of the drug is that since it is not an opioid, the overdose reversal medication (naxalone) does not work.

In April 2023, National Drug Control Policy Director Rahul Gupta designated xylazine as an official emerging threat to the country. It was the first time that an administration has put this label on an illicit substance.