What are local drug dealers selling? Things even worse than fentanyl

KCPD says officers have found street drugs laced with carfentanil, an opioid normally used to...
KCPD says officers have found street drugs laced with carfentanil, an opioid normally used to tranquilize large animals, such as elephants.(KCTV5)
Updated: Mar. 27, 2023 at 7:00 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - We’ve heard a lot about the dangers of fentanyl and how common it is. But in addition to fentanyl, there are many other dangerous drugs cut into “street drugs” — everything from horse dewormer to something called the zombie drug.

Our investigative team went inside the Kansas City Police Department crime lab to get a first-hand look at what is being sold on the streets in the Kansas City metro area.

“You can’t even make one mistake,” said Jason Kennedy, chief criminalist supervisor in the KCPD Crime Lab. “You try these tablets one time. It can be the last time you ever try anything.”

Kennedy has seen it all. And what he’s seen lately is the worst. He’s found street drugs laced with carfentanil. It’s an opioid normally used to tranquilize large animals, such as elephants. The DEA said it is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl. And, the DEA said, it’s becoming more common in our communities.

Then there’s the so-called “zombie drug” — Xylazine. It is also an animal tranquilizer. Xylazine has been labeled the “zombie drug” because it can cause excessive drowsiness and amnesia. It can also slow a person’s heart rate and can lower blood pressure to dangerous levels. But the biggest factor in the nickname is due to what happens to the skin. It can turn black, scaley, and ultimately rot away, leading to amputation. Because xylazine is not an opioid, it does not respond to Narcan.

In a report published in October 2022, the DEA wrote:

“It is legitimately sold directly through pharmaceutical distributors and Internet sites catering to veterinarians. However, xylazine is also readily available for purchase on other Internet sites in liquid and powder form, often with no association to the veterinary profession nor requirements to prove legitimate need.”

And, according to the report, it’s cheap. A kilogram can be purchased between $6 and $20.

Almost all street drugs are cut with something else. And the drugs can be different even within the same batch. That means one person can take a pill and survive, while another person might die.

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“It’s not a pharmaceutical. It’s not uniform. It’s not safe,” said Kennedy. “There’s not a Quality Control guy down in the cartel making sure that these tablets are uniform fentanyl.”

The KCPD crime lab data showed how drugs on the streets are changing. Methamphetamine had always been the most prevalent drug on Kansas City streets. But in the last quarter of last year, that changed — fentanyl is now equal to methamphetamine.

KCTV5 also checked with the Johnson County Crime Lab. Marijuana is the most commonly seized illegal substance in Kansas. Methamphetamine remains second — it has been that way for years.

But here is what has changed: in 2019, fentanyl was the 11th. As of March 2023, that rank is third.

Other things are also changing. Dealers now try to alter fentanyl to skirt laws. They can move molecules around to change the drug.

“They move it from here to here — that evades the statutes that way,” said Kennedy. “They skirt the legislation and think it’s legal.”

For more KCTV5 Investigates stories, click here.