ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) —It’s becoming more widely known the opioid Fentanyl is one of the main drugs contributing to America’s opioid overdose crisis, there’s a new additive increasingly being found in lab tests: xylazine.
The sedative anesthetic is typically used by veterinarians for euthanizing large animals (it’s a horse tranquilizer). It is not approved by the FDA for use in humans, nor is regulated by the DEA. The substance is increasingly being found in other drugs, including the already-deadly opioid fentanyl.
News 8 was granted access to the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Northeast Laboratory in NYC to see just how widespread the issue has become.
“We’re seeing this play out across the country in all of our states and all of our cities, and it’s the greatest drug threat the United States has ever seen,” says Frank Tarentino, DEA Special Agent in Charge, NY Division.
“Fentanyl is the most addicting drug on the market, but then when you mix in xylazine it becomes even more deadly and more devastating,” he adds.
According to Tarentino, fentanyl first appeared as contributing to overdose deaths in the Philadelphia area as a ‘drug misuse’ by the Medical Examiner back in 2006. The DEA started to report on the substance being mixed into the drug supply in 2015.
“More recently, we’ve seen an influx of drug exhibits with xyazline and fentanyl mixed in together… In fact, roughly 15% of all the drug exhibits analyzed here in our Northeast Regional Labratory have a mixture of Xlyazine in them,” Tarentino says.
Wearing medical-grade gloves and standing adjacent to a display shelf inside the lab, Tarentino showcases what is being discovered when street drugs are tested.
“This exhibit here with the Pablo Escabar stamp is heroin and fentanyl so that’s a pretty common mixture we’re seeing across all drugs now is fentanly is being mixed in with heroin, cocaine and methanphetamine. This here is 4 kilos of pure Xylazine, which is very concerning because that bag of 4 kilograms of Xylazine is likely to be mixed in with all these other drugs to include fentantyl,” he explains.
It’s a half-trillion-dollar annual business with suppliers now choosing Xylazine over Fentanyl because it’s cheaper and more available.
“Let’s be absolutely clear about this. This is the cartel’s diliberate and calculated trechery to increase their customer base by increasing addiction,” the Special Agent in Charge says.
“We have a number of ongoing investigations here in the NY Divsion that are targeting the two most dominant cartels responsible for fueling this epidemic and that is the Sina Loa cartel and the Jalisco cartel — those two cartels, working in conjunction with China are responsible for causing the most harm today in the United States as it related to fentanyl misuse and abuse and also with the xylazine we’re seeing on our city streets.”
Senator Chuck Schumer is spear-heading the ‘Fend Off Fentanyl’ Act, while also pushing for measures which would allow President Biden to put sanctions on countries which produce such products, like China and Mexico.
This year, in a first, the Biden-Harris Administration formally declared xylzazine combined with fentanyl as an emerging threat to the United States, rolling out a plan to address the issue. In October, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced eight indictments against China-Based Chemical Manufacturing Companies and Employees as it relates to disrupting the fentanyl supply chain.