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Animal tranquilizer found mixed in illicit drugs in Worcester County causing concerns

Overdoses and deaths could increase, officials say

Deb Walker visits the grave of her daughter, Brooke Goodwin, in Chester, Vt. on Dec. 9, 2021. Goodwin, 23, died of a fatal overdose of the powerful opioid fentanyl and xylazine, an animal tranquilizer that is making its way into the illicit drug supply.Lisa Rathke/Associated Press

An animal tranquilizer has been detected in drugs in Worcester County and authorities are concerned that overdoses and deaths could increase as a result.

Xylazine, an veterinary tranquilizer not approved for human use, has been found in cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, and other drugs in Worcester County, according to a statement Tuesday from Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early, Jr.’s office.

Xylazine is a sedative that can compound the effects of opioids by causing drowsiness, amnesia, slow breathing and heart rate, and dangerously low blood pressure, Early’s office said in the statement.

The overdose reversal drug naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, “cannot reverse the effect of xylazine, but people are advised to still administer naloxone/Narcan during possible opioid overdoses because xylazine is often mixed with opioids,” the statement said. “Medical attention should also be summoned for the overdose victim.”

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According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s website, xylazine has been linked to an increasing number of overdose deaths across the country, and the largest impact has been seen in the Northeast.


Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22.