Chuck Schumer

‘Skin-Rotting Zombie Drug' Fueling Long Island Overdose Deaths, Schumer Says

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued a rare public health alert last week about the mixture, calling it a "widespread threat," and Sen. Chuck Schumer didn't mince words over its impacts on NY

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A frighteningly toxic mix of synthetic opioid fentanyl and a human flesh-eating animal sedative has been blamed for an increasing number of U.S. overdose deaths, prompting a rare public health warning at the federal level last week and now, calls for more assistance at home.

Longtime New York Sen. Chuck Schumer called on the feds Sunday to send a dedicated team to the tri-state area to help combat the spread of xylazine, a scourge that top U.S. officials say is making America's deadliest drug threat even deadlier. Xylazine, also known as "tranq," is a powerful sedative federally approved for veterinary use. Increasingly, the DEA says traffickers are mixing it with fentanyl, a synthetic that on its own is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin.

The combination of the two puts users at a higher risk of deadly overdose or amputation, the DEA warned. All but two states have seen the feds seize such mixtures, and Schumer said the tragic ramifications are unfolding in New York.

According to the Democratic Senate majority leader, tranq was found in 20 autopsies on Long Island last year -- 16 in Suffolk County and four in Nassau County -- and that number will likely climb in 2023.

"Xylazine is dangerous, it is deadly and it is here," Schumer said Sunday in Manhattan. "It’s a deadly, skin-rotting zombie drug that evil drug dealers are now mixing with fentanyl, heroin and other drugs."

Lab tests indicate the mixture is more commonly seen in powder form as opposed to pills, accounting for 23% and 7% of DEA fentanyl seizures last year, officials say. Specifically, Schumer asked for a DEA team to help identify how the veterinary sedative is reaching dealers and work to cut off that distribution point, ideally saving lives in the process.

The call comes after fentanyl overdoses killed one of five women who ended up unconscious on the floor of a high-end New Jersey mall parking garage this month. It's not clear if xylazine was mixed in; further lab tests were pending. Just this past weekend, three men in New Rochelle died of a suspected drug overdose. Toxicology tests are also pending.

Xylazine isn't an opioid, so Narcan, which helped initially revive the women in New Jersey, won't reverse its effects.

People who inject drug mixtures containing it can develop severe wounds, including necrosis -- the rotting of human tissue -- which could lead to amputation or worse.

According to the CDC, 107,735 Americans died between August 2021 and August 2022 from drug poisonings, with 66% of those deaths involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl, the DEA warning said.

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, the DEA added.

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