Move over, fentanyl: Here comes xylazine

I had picked up from the media that a drug called "trank" was showing up and killing people the way that fentanyl does: by being mixed in with other street drugs that are purchased by primarily young people who don't know any better.  But thanks to the intrepid crime reporters at CWB Chicago, now I understand the extent to which the problem has spread and why it is even worse than fentanyl:

A tranquilizer used to sedate horses, cattle, and other animals is making its way into the illicit drug market, secretly added to heroin and cocaine by dealers trying to stretch their profits, authorities say.

But unlike another powerful drug that dealers use to cut narcotics, fentanyl, xylazine is not an opioid, and its effects cannot be reversed by administering Narcan.

Cook County had never recorded a xylazine-related death until 2018 when it had one case. Last year, there were 162, tweeted Luis Agostini, the Drug Enforcement Administration's public information officer in Chicago.

Fentanyl is being mixed with xylazine to cheaply extend the impact of the other illegal drugs being sold.  Because Narcan is useless against it, there are more deaths.

Nearly a quarter of the fentanyl seized by the DEA last year contained xylazine, CBS reported recently.

"Data shows that just about every xylazine-related death reported in Cook County also involves fentanyl. Purchasing drugs illegally – on the street or online without prescription – is a dangerous gamble," Agostini tweeted last summer.

The problem is accelerating:

Around this time last year, Cook County had confirmed 41 xylazine-related deaths, Cook County Chief Medical Examiner Ponni Arunkumar told NBC's affiliate in Terre Haute at the time. That number has more than doubled to 84 after outstanding toxicology tests came back, according to the medical examiner's online data portal.

We know that the gangs behind this drug trade are ruthless and care not in the least about the toll their business exacts in lost lives.

I would note that Singapore, which strictly applies the death penalty for dealing drugs (even marijuana), has no real drug problem.  That almost always strikes Americans as ridiculously severe and even inhumane.  But is it more humane to allow this trade to kill scores of people a year in just one city?

Just think about that for a while.

Hat tip: Peter von Buol.

Photo credit: CWB Chicago.

If you experience technical problems, please write to