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DEA says Fentanyl laced with Xylazine found in NKY, Louisville, indicating ‘third wave’ of opioid epidemic

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

Fentanyl in Kentucky may be now laced with an animal tranquilizer called Xylazine, what drug officials are calling the “third wave” of the opioid epidemic.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Xylazine has so far shown up in the Commonwealth at labs in Florence and Covington in Northern Kentucky and in Louisville.

The Drug Enforcement Administration seized more than 57.5 million fentanyl-laced, fake prescription pills and 13,740 pounds of fentanyl powder in 2022, according to the White House. (NKyTribune file)

Orville Greene, DEA Detroit Division Special Agent in Charge, explained Xylazine – also known as “tranq” is a powerful sedative and muscle relaxant that slows down the respiratory system and can cause severe, gaping wounds, and added Xylazine is worsening the drug crisis because it is not reversible by Naloxone, and because of the gruesome effects it has on users.

“One of the additional challenges is that people who inject drugs mixtures containing xylazine can also develop severe wounds, including necrosis, in some cases have led to amputations,” he said.

Xylazine has now been detected in street drugs in 48 states. Earlier this month The Office of National Drug Control Policy officially designated fentanyl mixed with Xylazine as an emerging threat to the United States.

Orville points out Xylazine is currently not a federally controlled substance, meaning it’s easier to obtain and difficult to track.

“It allows the traffickers to reduce the amount of fentanyl or heroin for example, in the mixture and ultimately it just increases the profits. It’s very cheap to obtain,” he said.

A U.S. Department of Justice and DEA report found the prevalence of Xylazine in the illicit drug supply jumped by more than 193% in the South over the past two years. Xylazine-positive fatal overdoses have increased by more than 1000% in the region.

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