Warning about new deadly animal sedative in illicit drug supply

LANSING, Mich. – A new deadly animal sedative is showing up in the illicit drug supply, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Medetomidine, a veterinary tranquilizer similar to xylazine, can cause a slowed heart rate, low blood pressure, and decreased brain and spinal cord activity.

“Medetomidine is considered more potent than xylazine, and we want to make sure Michigan residents are aware of this new and dangerous drug showing up in overdose deaths in our state,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian.

Since March, Michigan health officials have identified medetomidine in three overdose deaths. Although medetomidine is not an opioid, health officials advise administering the opioid overdose reversal medication naloxone if an overdose is suspected.

“Even though naloxone doesn’t directly reverse the effects of medetomidine or xylazine, these tranquilizers are usually found in combination with opioid drugs like fentanyl, that can be reversed. For this reason, we continue to urge individuals who use drugs and their loved ones to carry naloxone to prevent overdose,” said Dr. Bagdasarian.

Medetomidine-related overdoses are not limited to Michigan. NPR reports recent mass overdose outbreaks in Chicago and Philadelphia linked to the drug combination.

“The numbers reported out of Philadelphia were 160 hospitalizations over a 3 or 4-day period,” Alex Krotulski, who heads NPS Discovery, told NPR.