Fentanyl and 'Tranq' mixtures are a 'deadly' combination on the rise

Widespread mixtures of fentanyl and xylazine are causing concern for health officials in South Dakota — particularly because the combination cannot be aided by naloxone, according to an April 4 news release from the state's department of health.

The mixture of xylazine, also known as "Tranq," with opioids like fentanyl is becoming increasingly common nationwide. In October 2022, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a public report on the matter, calling xylazine mixtures "the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced."

According to the same report, the mixture was found in 48 of 50 states, and "in 2022 approximately 23 percent of fentanyl powder and 7 percent of fentanyl pills seized by the DEA contained xylazine."

While an overdose of the synthetic opioid fentanyl could ordinarily be reversed with the use of naloxone, the drug's mixture with a sedative such as xylazine cannot be aided by it, "which makes this combination much more deadly," according to Tim Southern, PhD, a public health laboratory administrator at the South Dakota Department of Health.

"We want to make sure the public is aware of the dangers of this mixture and that medical professionals are equipped to handle any cases that may arise," he said in a statement. 

Health professionals are being directed to report any detection of fentanyl and xylazine mixtures to the Department of Health immediately. The South Dakota Department of Health is working alongside the DEA and other agencies to monitor instances as they arise.

While this alert was issued by the state of South Dakota, instances of this are not isolated to the state. CBS Bay Area reported April 4 that a 36-year-old man's death was linked to a xylazine mixture.

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