LITTLE ROCK, Ark- The Arkansas Department of Health is issuing a warning about a deadly drug combination of xylazine and fentanyl after the USDA said the mixture is making the deadliest drug threat in the nation, fentanyl, even deadlier.
The DEA said xylazine and fentanyl mixtures have been seized in 48 states and the mixtures place its users at a higher risk of suffering a fatal drug poisoning.
Dr. Bala Simon, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the ADH said there have already been reports in Arkansas.
“Since the beginning of the year we have had 8 cases of xylazine-related overdoses,” Simon said.
Simon said those overdoses did not lead to deaths, but a lot of the overdoses related to xylazine go unreported.
“There’s no drug test to detect xylazine, it has to be a special lab run test,” Simon said.
Simon said the highly toxic substance is also not FDA-authorized for human use.
“It is typically used by the veterinarian as a tranquilizer,” Simon said.
Xylazine is a non-opioid tranquilizer veterinarians use to treat large animals such as elk, deer and horses. It has not been approved for use in humans.
He also said if used on humans, it could be deadly.
“It can cause severe respiratory depression and make someone comatose, and it can be life-threatening,” Simon said.
He goes on to say xylazine is also not an opioid, so Narcan won’t work if someone overdoses.
“Currently, the supportive care seems to be the only treatment for xylazine-related overdose,” Simon said.
Simon said they are alerting all state physicians and healthcare providers to be vigilant of the substance.
Staci James said she works to raise awareness of the dangers of drugs across the state after her 22-year-old son Hagen Jones died in March of 2019.
“It was fentanyl-laced cocaine that killed him. He did not choose to die,” James said.
She said more needs to be done about the mixture the DEA warns about.
“We have got to aggressively get it off the streets. Every police department needs a drug task that focuses on getting it off the streets,” James said.
James also said she wants to do everything she can to stop families from experiencing the heartache she has.
“When we join together and say we have had enough of this, what can we do to save the next generation, that’s when you’re truly going to see things start to change,” James said.
Additional information and resources for drug control and prevention are on the Arkansas Department of Health website.