State Department of Health Warns of “Extremely Dangerous” Animal Sedative Found in Street Drugs

Medetomidine is a potent surgical anesthetic approved for veterinary use in both large and small animals. This drug [medetomidine] is extremely dangerous, especially when taken with other substances,” stated Dr. James McDonald, New York’s Health Commissioner. File photo: Todorean-Gabriel,, licensed.

ALBANY, NY – The Department of Health has issued a public health alert after finding a concerning mix of substances in drug samples collected by non-profit organizations in Schenectady and Syracuse. One of these substances, medetomidine, is a powerful sedative typically used in veterinary medicine. There are currently no human uses approved for the drug.

The alert highlights the dangers of medetomidine when combined with other drugs like fentanyl, a synthetic opioid. Medetomidine significantly impacts the central nervous system, and mixing it with other depressants can lead to serious health risks, including overdose.

This drug [medetomidine] is extremely dangerous, especially when taken with other substances,” stated Dr. James McDonald, New York’s Health Commissioner.

The public health alert emphasizes the importance of the state’s drug-checking programs. These programs utilize specialized equipment to identify potentially harmful substances present in illegal drugs. The samples collected in Schenectady and Syracuse contained a mix of fentanyl, medetomidine, and caffeine, raising concerns about the increasingly contaminated illegal drug supply.

The article you provided mentions that the sample from Syracuse might be linked to two non-fatal overdoses. This emphasizes the potential dangers of unknowingly consuming medetomidine alongside other drugs.

According to the Times Union, the sample collected by Syracuse’s ACR Health is suspected by officials to be linked to two non-fatal drug overdoses.

More on Community Drug Checking Programs

A community drug checking program is a public health initiative that provides individuals with the opportunity to test substances for the presence of harmful adulterants and the potency of active ingredients. These programs aim to reduce the risks associated with drug use by offering accurate information about the composition of drugs.

Key components of such programs include:

  • Accessibility: Drug checking services are made available to the public, often in locations where drug use is prevalent, such as festivals, nightlife venues, community centers, or through mobile units.
  • Testing Methods: Various techniques are employed to analyze substances, including reagent testing, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), and infrared spectroscopy. These methods can identify substances and quantify their concentration.
  • Harm Reduction: By providing users with detailed information about the substances they intend to consume, drug checking programs help individuals make informed decisions, potentially reducing the likelihood of overdose, poisoning, or other adverse effects.
  • Education and Support: These programs often include educational components, where individuals receive information about the risks associated with drug use, safe consumption practices, and resources for addiction support and treatment.
  • Data Collection and Monitoring: Drug checking programs collect anonymous data on the substances tested, which can be used to monitor trends in drug use, identify emerging threats, and inform public health strategies.
  • Confidentiality: Ensuring the anonymity and confidentiality of users is a critical aspect of drug checking programs, as it encourages participation and trust among the community.


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