'Drug soup' containing fentanyl, xylazine, other substances continues to fuel overdose deaths

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner WLS logo
Saturday, February 11, 2023
Overdose deaths not slowing thanks to 'drug soup,' experts say
In a dramatic change, autopsies on drug users reveal up to 15 different substances contribute to most overdoses, a suburban coroner has told the ABC7 I-Team.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Health officials in the Chicago area say overdose deaths are not slowing, due a 'drug soup' of opioids, hallucinogens, chemicals and other substances sold as all-in-one drugs.

Law enforcement and medical professionals say users who are in the dark about the dangerous combinations frequently find themselves consuming a recipe for disaster that all too often ends in death.

People who monitor illicit drug supplies and ingredients say since 2021 there has been a perfect storm of deadly drug components.

RELATED: What is xylazine and why is it so dangerous?

"No one's quite sure what they're actually consuming," said Taylor Woods, technician at the Chicago Recovery Alliance.

"Now we're seeing up to 15 different drugs in people's systems; a couple of different fentanyls, cocaine, some amphetamine, Xanax, almost always marijuana and alcohol. And so it's increasingly difficult to actually identify which drug was responsible for the person dying," said DuPage County Coroner Dr. Richard Jorgensen.

And dying is becoming more common, Jorgensen said. One of the new increasingly common ingredients is an animal tranquilizer called xylazine.

"We had one case in 2021, and in 2022 we've seen about 15 of them," he said. "Xylazine is now rampant throughout the country as well. You know, in San Francisco they call it 'tranq.' And you've seen these videos of people that look like they're in that movie, 'The Walking Dead' and such."

I-Team Insider: The desperate effort to stop spread of Xylazine

It's a powerful tranquilizer now linked to overdose deaths, gruesome wounds and amputations.

"It takes magician chemists to actually know how to mix those drugs together in a way that was understandable, so that you knew how much to take. So it is worsening in all those regards," Jorgensen added.

This "drug soup" is now considered the main menu item for traffickers and dealers, and many users have no idea what the actual ingredients are.

And while xylazine is among the components not responsive to Narcan, the medical which can reverse the immediate effects of an opioid overdose, experts still recommend using Narcan on anyone who is overdosing in case it might help save their life.