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Des Moines Fire Department says naloxone not effective against xylazine-laced drugs

Naloxone has proven to not be effective against the sedative, meaning EMS workers will need to be prepared to give patients other life-saving measures.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Last week, Local 5 News spoke with the DEA and medical providers on the concern surrounding Xylazine

The animal sedative is being used to cut other illicit drugs, adding bulk to the substance but making it much more deadly for those who take it. 

"We're going to consistently have to be dealing with some of these things and have to shift gears on the fly," said Tony Sposeto, Captain of Emergency Medical Services for the Des Moines Fire Department. 

Sposeto says naloxone, the drug EMS workers use to reverse opioid overdoses, is not effective against drugs laced with xylazine.

"If we end up treating with Naloxone, and we don't get any results from that where the patient has any improvements, then what our basic treatment is going to be is managing that patient's airway."

Sposeto says that could mean intubating the patient on the way to the hospital. 

"We specifically want to keep that brain and the rest of the body perfused really well with oxygen so that the patient doesn't start deteriorating," he added.

Xylazine will stop the person's breathing, which could also trigger heart issues. 

"If they are in that condition for a limited amount of time it's going to go into cardiac arrest eventually where the heart will stop."

Sposeto says cardiac issues could be long-term due to xylazine, adding there is also the risk of the patient's blood pressure dropping. While DMFD staff are pros in treating each of these life-threatening issues, Sposeto says it all adds to the puzzle of triaging a patient on the way to the hospital. 

"If this doesn't work, what is my next step? And then trying to think two or three steps ahead, so that our treatment is going to manage that patient in the best way and get the best possible outcome we can for them."

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