Warning issued over emerging illicit drug


Health officials in Indiana are warning the public about the emergence of the drug medetomidine — a non-opioid sedative used in veterinary medicine — mixed with illicit substances.

The Indiana Department of Health issued a statewide alert June 5 to coroners, law enforcement and first responders.  According to the IDOH, medetomidine is most commonly detected alongside fentanyl, xylazine and heroin.

Medetomidine is commonly referred to as the ‘zombie drug.’ Symptoms of use can include sedation, analgesia, dry mouth, respiratory depression, hypnotic effects, dilated pupils, hypothermia, muscle twitching, slow heart rate and initial hypertension followed by prolonged hypotension.

The drug was recently detected in returned syringes at multiple Marion County Syringe Service Program sites.

“The Hamilton County Coroner’s Office has not yet seen medetomidine during our investigations of fatal overdoses,” stated Coroner Jeff Jellison. “Because of its widespread use just south of our county border, the community must remain on alert. Medetomidine is commonly mixed into pills and powders often purchased on the street or from internet black market pharmacies.”

Medetomidine was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1996 for veterinary use, specifically as a sedative for dogs, and is stronger and longer acting than xylazine.

Hamilton County Health Department health education specialist Jim Ginder stated medetomidine does not respond to naloxone — an opioid neutralizer commonly known by the brand name Narcan. However, Ginder stated because medetomidine is commonly mixed with fentanyl and other opioids, Narcan is recommended during a suspected overdose.

The Hamilton County Health Department offers free Narcan and Narcan training through its harm reduction program. Learn more at hamiltoncountyhealth.org/services/harm-reduction-program/community-outreach-and-education/.

Residents of Marion County can register for free Narcan training through the Marion County Public Health Department at suos.hhcorp.org.