CHICAGO (WLS) -- Nearly a month since the ABC7 I-Team exposed the so-called "Zombie drug," federal authorities are officially taking notice. The drug xylazine is claiming lives nationwide and that number is climbing.
Xylazine is an animal tranquilizer and is not supposed to be taken by humans. When it is, the X-Factor can produce gruesome flesh-eating ulcers, a rotting loss of limbs, and sometimes it seems survival is worse than death. Federal authorities are now warning the public about the mixture of fentanyl and xylazine by cartel street dealers.
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Two years ago, Deb Walker's 23-year-old daughter died of a xylazine overdose. Back then, it was almost unheard of. Now, this animal tranquilizer is a frightening phenomenon, contributing to the 108-thousand people who OD'd last year on street drugs, mostly fentanyl, some of it tainted with the tranquilizer xylazine.
"I do feel overwhelmed. I feel overwhelmed because of the sadness that this has brought to hundreds of thousands of people throughout the United States. And every minute of every hour of every day, someone is struggling with this. But we can't give up, and we won't give up," said the new agent in charge of Chicago's drug enforcement agency, Sheila Lyons. She said she is fearful and frustrated by deadly street drugs.
In an alert to the public, the DEA calls it "the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced."
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A menace manufactured by drug cartels in Mexico and shipped to American dealers and then consumers, many unaware of the noxious chemical they are ingesting for a super-high that couldn't produce a lower-low.
"They're violent, ruthless cartels. They care about nobody's health. They care about greed. They care about their profit margin, and they don't care what they're putting in any drug in order to gain their pool of addicted individuals, because it's all about making money," said Lyons.
DEA Administrator, Anne Milgram, says xylazine and fentanyl mixtures have been seized in nearly all 50 states. Among the complications: xylazine tranquilizers are not an opioid, so overdoses cannot be reversed by the use of Narcan.
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