Mass Overdoses Linked to Fentanyl Supply Being Tainted with an Even More Potent Drug

The drug epidemic in the United States unfortunately only shows signs of getting worse.

NewsNation reported a new “zombie drug” is responsible for a wave of overdoses. Medetomidine, a synthetic animal tranquilizer, is 100 times more potent than xylazine, another tranquilizer also found in street drugs. Medetomidine causes “heightened sedation” and a slowed heart rate, which could lead to cardiac arrest. Both medetomidine and xylazine are known to be mixed with fentanyl.

To make the situation more dire, medetomidine does not respond to naloxone, the medication used when a fentanyl overdose occurs. Dr. James Besante, an addiction specialist, told NewsNation, “Right now, we don’t have a drug to reverse an alpha agonist, which is the type of drug these sedatives are. You’d want to provide rescue breathing. The most important thing is that you call 911.”

Medetomidine first appeared in Maryland in 2022 before spreading to nine total states. NPR reported overdoses were seen in Toronto, Canada as well. Public health advisories have been issued in Illinois and Pennsylvania.

Dr. Brenden Hart at Temple University told NPR he started seeing medetomidine appear mixed with fentanyl in patients in April. Doctors began to raise concerns when patients would come in with extremely low heart rates.


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Dr. Bertha Madras of Harvard Medical School and McClean Hospital says the reason for medetomidine’s implementation is still unknown, but it may prolong the high of the user.

Authorities haven’t been able to determine whether the drug is being diverted from veterinary clinics or taken from medications intended for hospitals.

Fentanyl on its own is deadly enough even for long-time users.

A two-milligram dose of fentanyl can be fatal.

Is America’s hard drug problem getting even worse?

According to, over a quarter of a million Americans have died from fentanyl overdoses since 2018. Over 70,000 people died from fentanyl overdose in 2022. The DEA issued a public safety alert warning that six out of 10 fake prescription pills that year contained a lethal dose of it.

With fentanyl being mixed with many other illegal drugs, users find themselves in an increasingly dangerous position when xylazine and medetomidine are factored in.

Even for the most hardened drug user, medetomidine can prove deadly, given its unresponsive to current treatments for fentanyl overdose.

As the drug epidemic grows, it’s unfortunately commonplace for more of us to know someone close, like a family member or friend, who has experienced an overdose.

In 2023, President Joe Biden issued a warning that fentanyl was being mixed with xylazine, but his administration must now do more, before the problem with medetomidine spreads to all 50 states and exacerbates an already out-of-control epidemic.


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We have known for some time that these deadly drugs are not just being illegally made inside the United States.

The Mexican drug cartels and their trafficking operations across the southern border are also to blame.

As if there were more reasons needed for tight border security, the drug epidemic destroying thousands of lives is not a small one.

We must address the border for the safety of our communities. Medetomidine is going to grow into a national and even more deadly threat if we do not.

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