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Ohio narcotics experts warn xylazine is here, causing overdose deaths

An emergency order on the state level this week made xylazine a controlled substance.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Xylazine is an animal tranquilizer that's been creeping into the fentanyl supply here in Ohio.

In Franklin County, the coroner's office says toxicology results in recent years show Xylazine has been linked to overdose deaths. To be exact, there were 35 in 2021 and 33 in 2022.

In both years, that accounted for a little more than 4% of all overdose deaths.

Statewide, in 2021 there were 75 deaths. That jumped to 113 in 2022. That’s according to the Ohio Department of Health Bureau of Vital Statistics.

However, there’s concern that it is underreported.

“I would definitely say is out of this and overdoses are underreported because we know not everybody's testing for it,” said Erin Reed with the Ohio Narcotics Intelligence Center, which was established in 2019. 

Reed said now that it's considered a controlled substance in Ohio, that allows them to better track how much is here.

“It's really difficult when a drug is not controlled, to be able to understand its prevalence. And the reason for that is because crime labs, when they report out their findings, they don't include noncontrolled substances and those findings."

It's cut with drugs like cocaine and fentanyl. In an e-mail to 10TV, the DEA administrator says quote, "Xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier."

“When you have a pill, when you have a powder when you have a liquid, there's no way just from observing that that substance for you to know what its contents are,” Reed said about why this is so alarming.

And because it's not an opioid – life-saving medications like Narcan are less effective.

So because this is not a controlled substance on the federal level - a DEA spokesperson tells 10TV they are working to change that immediately. What will that take? The answer: the passing of bi-partisan legislation introduced this week.

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