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NEW YORK (PIX11) — The special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) New York office said greedy traffickers are making a “conscious choice” to mix xylazine, an animal tranquilizer called “tranq,” with the deadly opioid fentanyl.

Frank Tarentino, who runs New York’s division of the DEA, said the dealers are making a business decision to get more product by putting xylazine with fentanyl because xylazine is a sedative meant to mimic the euphoria of heroin or to extend the high of fentanyl.

“What they’re doing is mixing it in to increase the high,” Tarentino told PIX11 News, “and allow the high to go longer periods of time.”

But there’s collateral damage: higher overdose rates stemming from a horse tranquilizer mixed with a powerful opioid. And xylazine users are now doubly addicted to fentanyl and the sedative they call ‘tranq,’ which also causes unsightly ulcers on hands, arms and legs. In some cases, the wounds lead to amputations.

Tarentino said the DEA is “laser-focused” on China and Mexico, the two countries that are driving the fentanyl crisis, with China providing the precursor chemicals needed to produce the man-made opioid, and Mexico creating the product in labs scattered south of the border. The drugs are flooding the United States at an unprecedented rate and killing more Americans than ever before, with 107,735 fatal overdoses tallied between August 2021 and August 2022, 66% of them from fentanyl.

Tarentino said in 2022, “We seized enough fentanyl pills and powder to kill 72 million Americans, just in the New York division alone.”

One day after DEA headquarters in Washington, D.C. issued a public safety alert about fentanyl mixed with xylazine, Tarentino noted, “What we’re seeing is an alarming trend across our country. In 48 of the 50 states, we’ve seen xylazine present in our evidence.”