Law enforcement agencies and first responders are bracing for the inevitable arrival of a powerful new illicit drug in North Central Washington.

Tranq (as in tranquilizer) is already wreaking a deadly havoc among drug users in East Coast cities like Philadelphia, where it is now responsible for over 25% of the city's overdose deaths.

The drug is comprised of an opioid such as fentanyl or heroin that is mixed with xylazine, a tranquilizer used by veterinarians to sedate large animals like horses.

"It's been around since the (19)60's," says Shawn Ballard of Ballard Ambulance in Wenatchee. "Now they're stating to use it as an additive in things like fentanyl or heroin. It's a clear liquid so the manufacturers and dealers can simply drop a little bit of it on the other narcotics. Then when it's used, it enhances the effects of the opioids and also extends the high that users get from it."

Ballard adds that tranq is especially hazardous because traditional life-saving methods used during drug overdoses are ineffectual against it.

"The danger with it is that NARCAN (Naloxone) doesn't work against it. The other big thing that's being seen with tranq use is people are injecting it and it's causing very large necrotic wounds on their skin. That means that the tissue is dead and it rots and turns black."

Wenatchee Police Department Captain Edgar Reinfeld says there have been no confirmed cases of tranq usage in the Valley just yet, however, there are some cases suspected to have links to the drug which are currently being investigated.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, up to 15% of the nation's illegal fentanyl now contains xylazine.

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