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DEA has seized xylazine mixed with fentanyl in 48 of 50 states

FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 file photo, a fire medic holds a box containing naloxone hydrochloride which is carried in all their department's emergency response vehicles, in Akron, Ohio. Doctors who prescribe opioid painkillers should tell their patients about a potentially life-saving medication that can reverse drug overdoses, according to new federal guidelines issued Thursday, July 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Keith Srakocic
A fire medic in Akron, Ohio, holds a box containing naloxone hydrochloride, or Narcan. The medication can reverse drug overdoses, but xylazine doesn't respond to it.

Drug dealers are increasingly mixing an animal tranquilizer that can cause skin rot in humans, as well as a long list of other health problems, with fentanyl.

On April 12, the Office of National Drug Control Policy announced the designation of fentanyl combined with xylazine, also known as "tranq," as an emerging drug threat.

The Drug Enforcement Agency says "xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced — fentanyl — even deadlier."

"DEA has seized xylazine and fentanyl mixtures in 48 of 50 states," Administrator Anne Milgram says. "The DEA Laboratory System is reporting that in 2022 approximately 23% of fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl pills seized by the DEA contained xylazine."

RELATED: Animal tranquilizer increasingly found in street drugs doesn't respond to Narcan, coroner warns

During a Tuesday virtual news conference, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten says we are in a fight to save lives.

"We are in the third wave of what many have called the opioid epidemic," says Totten, "starting with prescription drugs, then moving to heroin, and now fentanyl, which is a synthetic cheap opioid in seemingly endless supply, which is incredibly lethal."

How bad is it in Hamilton County?

WVXU’s Tana Weingartner reported Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco estimates it's in two-thirds to three-quarters of street drugs locally.

Sammarco said at a March 8 news conference, "Fifty death certificates contain xylazine as a contributory cause, but that's based on a presumptive test. That's not necessarily the only cases where xylazine was seen because it was a presumptive test and not a confirmatory test," she explains.

LISTEN: What is xylazine, and how is it contributing to overdose deaths?

Additional testing and newer machines are needed to provide more confirmatory tests and a fuller picture.

During the Tuesday news conference, reporters wanted to know specific areas where the xylazine fentanyl combination was the worst.

Detroit DEA Special Agent in Charge Orville Greene says, "As we make these seizures and the testing is conducted, I think that's where we can definitively say xylazine was seen in one area or another."

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.