The Dubuque Drug Task Force had a frightening revelation this week when it was discovered that a dangerous "zombie drug" not intended for human consumption was found with a mixture of seized narcotics.

The Dubuque Drug Task Force received confirmation from the Iowa Department of Public Safety DCI crime lab of the presence of Xylazine found within a mixture of heroin and fentanyl in illegal drugs seized in Dubuque, per a media release. The drugs were seized in June of 2023 and we received confirmation from the DCI crime lab this week. This was the first confirmation of Xylazine being found in the Dubuque area.

What is Xylazine?:

Xylazine is a non-opioid sedative or tranquilizer often used in veterinary settings. It is not approved for use for people. It is commonly referred to as “Tranq”. Xylazine is found mixed with Fentanyl (powder and pill form) but can also be added to heroin, cocaine and meth. It is impossible to detect outside of a laboratory environment and will not show up on field tests available to the public or law enforcement, per the media release.

Xylazine can cause skin ulcers beyond the injection site, high blood sugar, difficulty swallowing, lethargic symptoms, decreased respirations and a life-threatening drop in the blood’s ability to carry oxygen to tissues.

Xylazine is Not an Opioid:

Photo Credit: Jupiterimages, Getty Stock
Photo Credit: Jupiterimages, Getty Stock

Because Xylazine is not an opioid the effects will not be reversed by administering Naloxone. However, since Xylazine is commonly mixed with opioids, such as Fentanyl, it is still recommended that anyone experiencing overdose symptoms be given Naloxone, especially is shortness of breath is present, and seek emergency medical care immediately.

No less, administering Naloxone (more commonly known as Narcan) is recommended for someone under the influence of Xylazine.

Xylazine is Compounding the Country-Wide Fentanyl Problem:

In a public safety alert issued by the Department of Public Safety, DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said Xylazine is making the fentanyl epidemic even worse:

Xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier. DEA has seized xylazine and fentanyl mixtures in 48 of 50 States. The DEA Laboratory System is reporting that in 2022 approximately 23% of fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl pills seized by the DEA contained xylazine.

From the same press release provided by the Department of Public Safety, according to the CDC, 107,735 Americans died between August 2021 and August 2022 from drug poisonings, with 66 percent of those deaths involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco Cartel in Mexico, using chemicals largely sourced from China, are primarily responsible for the vast majority of the fentanyl that is being trafficked in communities across the United States.

For More Information on Xylazine:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently communicated to health care providers about the risks to patients exposed to xylazine in illicit drugs. A copy of that communication can be found here: FDA alerts healthcare professionals of risks to patients exposed to xylazine in illicit drugs.

For any further questions or concerns regarding Xylazine, you can direct them to Joe Kennedy or Sgt. Adam Williams of the Dubuque Drug Task Force at 563-583-4789.

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