Arizona warns Mexican cartels are lacing fentanyl with animal tranquilizer

Xylazine, an animal tranquilizer, is being used as a cutting agent for fentanyl.

Published: March 10, 2023 1:10pm

Updated: March 10, 2023 11:32pm

(The Center Square) -

Mexican cartels are using Xylazine, an animal tranquilizer, as a cutting agent for fentanyl, according to a report exclusively obtained by The Center Square.

On March 3, 2023, the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center unclassified a Situational Awareness Bulletin prepared by the Southern Tactical Intelligence Unit, in conjunction with the Joint Strategic Analysis Unit, to make state and local law enforcement agencies aware of an emerging trend: Mexican cartels are lacing fentanyl with Xylazine.

The ACTIC report states, “On February 27, 2023, STIU received information regarding cartels using xylazine as a cutting agent for fentanyl products.”

“Unlike fentanyl, xylazine is not an opioid and does not respond to the use of naloxone (Narcan). Although it may appear ineffective in someone with both fentanyl and xylazine in their system, law enforcement or emergency personnel should utilize Narcan,” the bulletin states. Because Narcan only counters the effects of the opioid in a mixture, those poisoned by it “may require additional measures to survive,” the bulletin states.

While there is little peer-reviewed data about prior law enforcement or emergency medical personnel being exposed to xylazine, the bulletin warns first responders to “take all precautions when dealing with illicit substances or overdose victims and utilize personal protective equipment to minimize exposure.”

Xylazine is a pharmaceutical drug used for sedation, anesthesia, muscle relaxation for horses, cattle, and other non-human mammals. It isn’t a controlled substance and can only be purchased with a veterinary prescription. When purchased online in liquid or powder form, it’s “often with no association to the veterinary profession nor requirements to prove legitimate need,” the bulletin notes, citing a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency report.

In December, the Arizona Poison System published a warning to all Arizona health-care providers “about the risks of illicit drugs, including fentanyl, being contaminated with xylazine.”

“Xylazine is a very powerful veterinary tranquilizer that has been increasingly identified as an adulterant in street drugs, and at autopsy in drug-related deaths across Arizona,” Dr. Daniel Brooks, medical director of the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center, said in a statement. “We are working with public health and safety agencies to warn Arizona healthcare providers and medical examiners about this dangerous drug.”

Pharmacist Steve Dudley, managing director of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, said, “Xylazine is not routinely tested for in most healthcare settings and can even be missed at autopsy unless specific testing is ordered.”

Those who test for and detect xylazine are requested to report their findings to the Opioid Assistance and Referral Line at 888-688-4222 and to the Arizona Poison System at 1-800-222-1222.

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