New Palestine Police find “Zombie Drug”

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Xylazine is an FDA-approved sedative and pain reliever for use in animals, but it has severe adverse effects when used in humans.

NEW PALESTINE — It seemed like a routine traffic stop. However, officials with the New Palestine Police Department say they ended up discovering a person with one of the most dangerous drugs being abused in the United States — Xylazine.

While Xylazine is an FDA-approved sedative and pain reliever for use in animals, officials say it has severe adverse effects when used in humans. Officials say the drug is now being added to opioids, like fentanyl and heroin, as well as cocaine, and it is leading to a sharp rise in overdose deaths.

Chief Bob Ehle spoke about the dangers of the drug and noted one of their recent traffic stops led to finding Xylazine in the area for the first time in the southern part of the county. Xylazine’s street name, particularly when it is mixed with fentanyl, is called “tranq,” or “tranq dope” or the “zombie drug,” Ehle said.

“It’s been around for a minute, since about 2020, but it’s really starting to make it’s way into the middle of the nation,” Ehle said. “You can see photos of people who have taken it — they’re frozen and look like zombies.”

Ehle spoke recently with the New Palestine Town Council and told them to spread the word and advise parents to warn their children to stay away from Xylazine and all other drugs making their way into the county due to their deadly potential.

“We had no way of finding out or knowing what it was until we took it to the state lab for testing,” Ehle said. “We haven’t seen anyone overdose with it yet, but the guy I’ve got sitting in the jail right now had it.”

Prosecutor Brent Eaton says county law enforcement as a whole don’t really have a field test for this particular drug, which they see very often.

He noted it is common practice for a field test and a “presumptive positive” for drugs which his office uses for charging, but then the drugs are sent to the lab for confirmation with a more accurate test.

Ehle told his council he planned to use some of their opioid money to be able to get some good testing measures for the drug and said a new test kit was on the way.

“The drug looked like hydrocodone and I thought I’d be charging this guy because he didn’t have a prescription,” Ehle said. “But, when I took the pills into the state, the gal testing them said ‘I hope you were careful with this because this has fentanyl and Xylazine in it.”

Ehle then advised his council that, should they or anyone they know come across any type of drug that doesn’t look familiar, to call the police and let them take a look at it.

“There is some bad stuff out there right now,” Ehle said. “We plan to have our school resource officers talk to kids at the schools and make them aware.”

Ehle noted the drug is being sold to users in powder, pill or liquid form, but since it’s only supposed to be used by veterinarians, it has adverse affects.

“Because the drug pushers can get it so cheap, they’re mixing it with the other drugs,” Ehle said. “It looked just like the type of pill you might get from your doctor and that’s the scary thing.”

Ehle noted he’d like to see the state make possession of the drug a more serious felony charge due to the damage it can cause. To show how dangerous the drug is, Ehle said that when people inject it, research shows the skin near the injection site dies off.

“Granted, we caught this guy passing through on a traffic stop, so we’re not certain that this drug is being sold here yet, but we want to send out a warning for people to be aware it’s here in the state,” Ehle said. “We don’t want people to touch anything because some of these drugs, you just touch them and they can put you down.”

It’s why Ehle noted he advises his officers to wear double gloves and masks when dealing with drug situations.

Drug statistics show that opioids are the most fatal substance in the U.S., causing over 644,000 deaths since 1999, followed by stimulants and cocaine.

The Daily Reporter checked with officials from the Greenfield Police Department who noted they too are aware of the dangers surrounding the drug, but so far they’ve not encountered it on the streets of Greenfield.