NEW YORK (PIX11) – It’s being called the deadliest drug threat in the United States.

Tranq” is a potentially lethal combination of animal sedatives and street drugs such as heroin and fentanyl. The rise of tranq has officials on the federal, state and local levels on high alert.

“One of the most alarming trends that I’ve seen is this mixture of cocaine, fentanyl, and xylazine,” NYC Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan told PIX11 News. “It’s the drug itself which is causing the necrosis, which is causing the skin to die, causing organs to die.”

In addition to the skin lesions prone to users, mixing an animal tranquilizer like xylazine with an opioid like fentanyl increases the risk of a fatal overdose because tranq generally knocks people out and slows the heart rate and respiration. It’s also resistant to opioid overdose-reversal drugs such as Narcan.

Now, it’s infiltrating the tri-state area

Overdose deaths involving xylazine exploded by 1,127% in the South between 2020 and 2021, from 116 to 1,423, according to DEA data. In the Midwest, fatal overdoses with xylazine involved rose 516%. During that same time frame, the Northeast saw a 103% increase, from 631 to 1,281 deaths. 

PIX11’s Mary Murphy has extensively reported on the deadly rise of tranq in communities along the East Coast and beyond. Watch the video player for PIX11 News’ special, “Tranq: The Zombie Effect.”