Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. held a press conference in Manhattan Sunday to warn about “a deadly, skin-rotting zombie drug” that could make the scourge of fentanyl alone seem “tame.”
“Now we all know what a scourge fentanyl has been across the New York area – New York City, Long Island, all the suburbs – but now we’re seeing a new even worse type of drug being mixed with fentanyl. It’s also mixed with heroin and other addictive substances. This new drug could be a nightmare. It’s called xylazine,” Schumer said. “It’s a deadly, skin-rotting zombie drug that evil drug dealers are now mixing with fentanyl, with heroin and with other drugs. And it’s already bringing a horrific wave of death and overdose to upstate New York, and it’s on its way to New York City and Long Island where we’ve already seen it begin to rear its ugly head.”
Last week, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a public safety alert reporting the widespread threat of fentanyl mixed with xylazine.
DEA administrator Anne Milgram warned the American public about “a sharp increase” in the trafficking of fentanyl mixed with xylazine, also known as “Tranq,” a powerful sedative that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved for veterinary use.
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Xylazine, a legal drug, is used as an anesthetic for large animals, such as horses and cows, Schumer said.
“China mainly sends it to Mexico, and it comes across the border. And that’s why we need the DEA involved heavily,” he said. “Because our New York City police do a very good job here, but it’s coming across the border. It’s not indigenous here. There are a few veterinarians who use it here but not many because there aren’t very many horses or cows in New York City.”
“The results are deadly. It can rot your skin. It can eat away at your bones. It can cause legs to be amputated,” Schumer said. “And worse, xylazine can make fentanyl look tame because it doesn’t respond to Narcan. This evil drug – it’s not evil when it’s used legitimately – but this evil drug has no Narcan. Narcan has saved hundreds of thousands of lives.”
Schumer proposed a two-part plan “to fight and to fund this evil xylazine.”
The senator asked the DEA to deliver a “diversion control team,” made up of investigators, special agents, chemists, pharmacologists and program analysts, to swoop in and stop the spread of xylazine to the New York metropolitan area. As Senate Majority Leader, Schumer said he would also be pushing for an increase to the substance use and mental health services budget for New York and Long Island so that there are more dollars for law enforcement, treatment and education.
He namely wants more funding for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, an agency under the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services umbrella.
The mission of the DEA’s diversion control division is to prevent, detect and investigate the diversion of controlled pharmaceuticals.
“The diversion teams are to drugs like our Navy SEAL teams are to national security,” Schumer said.
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Schumer quoted New York City Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan’s recent comments to City Council. Last week, Brennan warned, “xylazine is increasingly linked to overdose deaths in New York City. It has been present in the city for about a year and is now beginning to saturate the street market.”
“If there was even a warning signal shot across the bow. This is it,” Schumer said.
New York City also revealed officers uncovered over 44 pounds of fentanyl cut with xylazine during a recent money laundering operation in Queens. In Nassau County, toxicology officials detected a xylazine uptick in autopsies, including four cases in the deceased person. So far, Suffolk County has had 16 cases where xylazine was found in a deceased person this year.
“As I’ve said, the drug is not meant for humans. It’s actually legal,” Schumer said. “It’s coming into the country through China and often through Mexico. And so these even drug dealers have started peddling this drug because it mimics opioids. Our law enforcement officials know we have to have an all-hands-on deck to fight this drug. What we’ve learned in the war on drugs is that if you nip it in the bud, if you stop it before it gets its tentacles into our society you can stop it.”
In Syracuse, there were 40 xylazine overdoses last month, Schumer said. It Is spreading in Albany and Rochester and is coming down to New York City and Long Island.
“Xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier,” Milgram said in a previous statement. “DEA has seized xylazine and fentanyl mixtures in 48 of 50 States. 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.”
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