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A non-opioid animal tranquilizer for which there is no antidote is being mixed into Michigan street drugs, making the already deadly supply more dangerous, according to toxicologists and researchers.
Xylazine, a fast-acting central nervous system depressant that is not approved for human use, is showing up largely in fentanyl, the ultra-potent synthetic opioid that is mixed into heroin and pressed into counterfeit pills and responsible for more overdose deaths than any other drug. Adding xylazine to fentanyl, which is also a depressant, increases the already high odds of overdose. It’s a double whammy to the central nervous system. It “should be avoided at all cost,” said UCLA researcher Joseph Friedman, who has studied the drug extensively.
In Michigan, xylazine has turned up in toxicology screenings of almost 200 people who have died from drug overdoses since 2019, said Varun Vohra, who is director of the Michigan Poison and Drug Information Center at Wayne State University in Detroit.