CLEVELAND — Xylazine is an animal tranquilizer that was never intended for humans. According to federal law enforcement authorities, it's now being mixed with other illicit street drugs, including fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
"It's like a muscle relaxant along with a sedative, so it's causing respiratory depression and then just relaxing all the muscles in the body, and then you combine that with fentanyl, and here we go," said Carole Negus, director of nursing at Stella Maris.
Kim Buss tells her son Trevor's story at high schools to help other kids. He died last July from an overdose.
"We found he had xylazine in the toxins and dog dewormer, and naloxone does not get those receptors in your brain, so it just kinda shuts down, and you pass away in your sleep," Buss said.
Drug Enforcement Administration Assistant Special Agent in Charge Tom Gergye said drug cartels are mixing xylazine with fentanyl, and it's a recipe for disaster.
DEA agents are seeing more xylazine than ever before.
"When there is xylazine with fentanyl, and they use Narcan to try and revive the patient, it's harder to get them back. They have to use multiple doses," said Gergye. "They have to do additional medical procedures to be able to get them to fully at 100%."
"The reason we suspect we're seeing it is because we've had in the last six months several overdoses in our lobby that we have tried using the Kloxxado, which is the eight-milligram version of Narcan, and it's taken two or three to even get them to sort of arouse," said Negus.
Those on the front lines stress there is no safe drug bought or sold on the streets. Drug dealers are selling a concoction that can kill.
"I think about it all the time, I risk my life every single day, and it's just mind-blowing, and by the Grace of God, I'm still here," said Jillian Stewart.
Stewart went through the Stella Maris program and has turned her life around. She now has a job as a head chef and has been in recovery for 19 months.
"This place saved my life. The life I have today is so beautiful, and it's better than I ever could have imagined," said Stewart.
A warning from law enforcement and those on the front lines of recovery:
"There's no safe drug on the street," said Negus.
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