Presence of ‘Tranq’ found in local overdose death

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Tech. Sgt. Mark R. W. Orders-Woempner)
By Dan Spalding
News Now Warsaw

WARSAW — Officials are seeing a slow rise in the presence of xylazine – a horse sedative known on the street as “tranq.”

The drug, which leaves users in a heavy haze and can be lethal, first began to appear on the East Coast.

Drug Enforcement officials are seeing it more often in the Midwest and is often being mixed with illegal drugs like fentanyl, cocaine and heroin.

It was detected in about 800 drug deaths in the U.S. in 2020, most of them in the Northeast. By 2021, it was present in more than 3,000 fatalities — with the most in the South — according to a report last year from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Associated Press reported in April.

This year, Indiana lawmakers passed legislation requiring coroners to test for xylazine in all suspected overdose deaths.

The presence of xylazine was confirmed in an overdose death earlier this year in Kosciusko County, according to County Coroner Tyler Huffer.

As of last week, the county had recorded eight overdose deaths with xylazine found in one case. Fentanyl was found in five of the fatal cases, Huffer said.

When combined with fentanyl or other synthetic opioids, xylazine can increase the potential for fatal overdoses, according to the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

Carolyn Warner-Greer, medical director for the Bowen Recovery Center, said she’s seeing signs of it locally.

“I’ve probably seen it ten times in the past year so it’s not a gigantic number at all, but that’s how everything starts —  small,” Warner-Greer said.

She said the illegal drug culture has changed in recent years when overdose deaths often involved just one main drug. Fentynal was unheard of five years ago and the opioid epidemic has moved away from pain pills due to new market restrictions.

Warner-Greer said much of the problem in this era of meth, fentanyl and heroin is that users don’t know what they’re buying and using.

Essentially, nobody knows precisely what they are purchasing and consuming because various other drugs are being added, she said.

“If you’re buying a pain pill and its actually pressed fentanyl, or you’re buying Xanax and it’s actually fentanyl – this contaminated drug supply is one of many things that make it very unsafe,” she said.

Xylazine is also characterized by ulcerations on the skin at the injection site that can require amputation of a limb.

Because the drug is not an opioid, its effects cannot be reversed with Naloxone.