Overdoses in Wayne County, around Michigan linked to new animal tranquillizer

Overdose deaths in Wayne, Ingham, and Berrien counties have been linked to a new drug that's used as a veterinarian tranquilizer.

The Michigan health department is warning about the appearance of Medetomidine in the toxicology reports of at least three overdose deaths since March. 

Officials are concerned about the use of the tranquilizer because there is no guarantee that resources like Naloxone will reverse an overdose when Medetomidine is involved. There is also no means of testing for the tranquilizer which can shut the central nervous system down, leading to death.

"It’s still not prevalent. But we want to get ahead of the problem just like we xylazine," said Judy Davis, the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network’s Substance Use Disorder director"We want to make sure that when test strips become available, that we purchase them and make them available to the community."

Medetomidine is used as an anesthetic during surgery for animals. 

It was discovered during the postmortem toxicology testing and reported by the Swift Toxicology of Opioid Related Mortalities (STORM) project at Western Michigan University.

While it is similar to xylazine, another animal tranquilizer that can be mixed with opioids, it is more potent. 

There are also test strips that are available for xylazine - which can be mixed with fentanyl and is sometimes called "Tranq." Last year, the Oakland County Sheriff's Office warned about a spike in overdoses associated with the tranquilizer.

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Narcan is frequently used to reverse overdoses - though one dose isn't always effective enough for xylazine. The same goes for Medetomidine.

"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," said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive. "For this reason, we continue to urge individuals who use drugs and their loved ones to carry naloxone to prevent overdose."

In response to the appearance of Medetomidine, the health department is asking local organizations that offer substance abuse assistance to raise awareness about the substance and harm reduction practices in general.

If someone is experiencing an overdose, rescue breaths should be given to encourage respiration. Learn more about remedies here.

"Drug dealing, it’s a billion-dollar business. So we know what we’re up against. We're always out there fighting the fight," Davis said.


New warning in Oakland County for 'Tranq' mixing fentanyl with animal tranquilizer

"It begins to degrade and disintegrate your skin over time," he said. "Number two, it makes the saving efforts that we come across less and less effective."