May 29, 2024 – Public health officials say Mexican cartels and drug gangs inside the U.S. are mixing a dangerous chemical sedative called medetomidine into fentanyl and other drugs sold on the street. The combination triggered a new wave of overdoses that began in late April and have accelerated in May. “The numbers reported out of Philadelphia were 160 hospitalizations over a 3 or 4-day period,” said Alex Krotulski who heads an organization called NPS Discovery that studies illicit drugs sold in the U.S.

Medetomidine, most often used by veterinarians as an animal tranquilizer, but also formulated for use in human patients, has also been linked to recent “mass overdose outbreaks” in Chicago and Pittsburgh. 

Experts say the chemical, mixed into counterfeit pills and powders sold on the street, slows the human heart rate to dangerous levels. It’s impossible for drug users to detect.

Public health advisories have been issued in Illinois and Pennsylvania.

Dr. Brendan Hart at Temple University in Philadelphia says they first began hearing reports of street drug users exposed to the fentanyl-medetomidine mix in April.