FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — A new illegal drug suspected in cases of drug overdose is on the streets of Fort Wayne. Unlike opioids, overdoses from Bromazolam can’t be reversed with Narcan.

Experts advise that Narcan should be used if the suspected drug is bromazolam, also known as XLI-246, Xanax, fake Xanax or dope, because the drug is typically found with another drug such as fentanyl or cocaine.

Bromazolam was created in the 1970s but was never approved for use in the U.S.

The drug is normally found in tablet form and would resemble any pharmaceutical pill you might take.

Nate Moellering, exec. vp, Allendale and Fort Wayne Recovery

Although it’s been in the U.S. since 2019, fake Xanax started appearing in Fort Wayne about six months ago, according to Nate Moellering, executive vice president of Allendale Recovery and Fort Wayne Recovery. He also serves on the overdose fatality review team for Allen County.

The drug enters the U.S. via mail, ports and the Mexico border. A lot of the new “synthetics” can be ordered online.  Drug dogs don’t always detect these drugs because they are trained to detect certain substances and not all, Moellering said.

Most likely manufactured in China, bromazolam is often mixed with opioids like Fentanyl and causes people to stop breathing before eventually dying.

With a new drug like this appearing on the streets, law enforcement and medical facilities have to attempt to keep up with developments and create testing to detect it, Moellering said.  

“The police are telling us it’s out there,” Moellering noted. “They are finding it. They use all kinds of technology, a laser they can point at substances and say what’s in there. But I was talking to somebody today from Vice & Narcotics (FWPD) and they have trouble, as good as their equipment is, it doesn’t always test positive for what they know is in there.”

Fake Xanax can appear in any pill, but the ages that are hardest hit are kids ages 13 to 15. It’s also available in a powder form or a gummy. Usually, the drug is sold as a pill because it’s the easiest thing to sell to someone, Moellering said.

“A lot of things found in the counterfeit Xanax or Percocet, people don’t know it’s in their drugs,” Moellering said. That goes for Xylazine or “tranq,” an animal tranquilizer that has also surfaced. Xylazine is called the “zombie drug,” causing skin necrosis when it’s injected, which when it goes undetected and causes infections, can lead to amputation.

One of the reasons fentanyl became so popular is that some hospitals and law enforcement still don’t test for it, Moellering said.

Many illicit pills are produced here, evidenced by Fort Wayne police, specifically Vice & Narcotics, who are seizing pill presses easily purchased online.  Pill presses are the reason there’s such a proliferation here of blue M-30s, the fake Percocet pills that contain fentanyl.

Bromazolam doesn’t act the way other opiates do, Moellering explained. “The big thing to remember is it’s a central nervous system depressant. It suppresses your breathing. It suppresses your heart function. And this is ultimately why people die of what is said is an overdose because it slows your heart rate and your breathing so much,” that you die.

Based on the classification of this drug, it’s likely naxolone, more commonly known as Narcan, does not work, he said.

Moellering sees a problem in treatment for adolescents. Medicaid, for instance, will only pay 75% for adolescents for what it pays for adults. That disincentivizes medical providers and treatment centers to develop programs for adolescents.

What can a parent do? Check a child’s Snapchat to see if there are people you don’t know. Also, look for a link to Cashapp, Pay Pal, or Apple Pay with amounts of $20, $40, or $60  to a person not known to the family.

Look to see if your child is tired all the time, has slurred speech, or dilated pupils. Then reach out to recovery treatment centers, to the schools and law enforcement, Moellering said. The Hope and Recovery Team is a non-judgmental FWPD outreach that will talk to people about drug use and treatment programs.

“No matter what the substance is you think you’re buying on the street, [it’s] likely that it could be laced with fentanyl. It’s likely it could be laced with xylazine or some other drug we’re not familiar with, so be very careful even with your recreational drug users,” Moellering said. He’s known several recreational drug users who have died from a drug they used one time.

And always make sure you have Narcan, if you’re going out at night. Narcan must be kept at an even temperature, so do not leave it in a car where there are high temperatures.