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DEA warns of emerging sedative being found in drugs across Marion County

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Posted at 7:20 PM, Jun 06, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS — Officials are warning about a dangerous sedative, called medetomidine, that’s being found in drugs across Marion County.

Medetomidine is a non-opioid sedative used on animals, but officials say it’s being mixed with drugs like fentanyl, heroin and xylazine.

The drug is believed to be stronger than xylazine. Both are used by veterinarians and are not approved by the FDA for human use.

Medetomidine is also known as the zombie drug and is extremely concerning for health officials.

DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Michael Gannon says the Marion County Public Health Department was able to identify the drug in syringes.

“What’s so scary about it is the drug traffickers are probably utilizing this because they know it can make the high last a little bit longer and they want to be able to market drugs and get people hooked on them,” Gannon said.\

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He says medetomidine isn’t a controlled substance and can be ordered online from overseas.

“When drugs come into our country and get here in the streets of Indianapolis, they can exchange hands five, six, seven or eight times. Each time it exchanges hands, you’re at the mercy of whoever has that drug,” Gannon said. “We’re going to be paying significant attention to this.”

The Marion County Public Health Department collects used needles through it's Safe Syringe Access and Support Program. It was able to detect the drug.

"And what we've seen that the needles and syringes it was found in was often mixed with fentanyl, xylazine and medetomidine. It's very dangerous stuff and very scary that this stuff is showing up here," Gannon said.

WATCH | Town hall addresses overdose deaths among Black people

Town hall addresses overdose deaths among Black people

The DEA reports the drug has been found in about 40 cases across North America.

San Francisco Board Supervisor, Matt Dorsey, said that includes:

  • Chicago
  • Philadelphia
  • Indianapolis
  • Toronto
  • Vancouver

"People need to be aware. We have to keep preaching prevention and awareness, getting people to talk about this at home — talking to their families, talking to people at work and talking to loved ones to try and make a difference," Gannon said.
Gannon says if medetomidine is ingested, the overdose reversal drug Narcan may not work.

If you or someone you know struggles with substance use, you can get in touch with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration by calling 1-800-662-HELP. They have a national helpline where you can get referred to treatment.