Deadly Narcan-Resistant Drug Found in Missouri Prison

The coroner says that xylazine has been wreaking havoc elsewhere, and now it's in Missouri

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click to enlarge Aeriel view of South Central Correctional Center in Licking, MO.
Aeriel view of South Central Correctional Center in Licking, MO.

A Missouri coroner is raising the alarm after discovering a horse tranquilizer in the system of an inmate who died in the South Central Correctional Center in Licking in September.

Licking is in Texas County, Missouri, where coroner Marie Lasater says that she found fentanyl and a drug called xylazine in Terrell Dawson, 42, who died in SCCC on September 1.

Dawson was one of seven inmates who died in the prison at Licking over the course of one month.

She says that xylazine is a horse tranquilizer that depresses the central nervous system. Because it is not an opioid, its effects can't be reversed by the life-saving opioid-antagonist Narcan.

According to the National Institutes of Health, deaths caused by xylazine are spiking elsewhere in the country. In 2015, xylazine played a role in 2 percent of overdose deaths in Pennsylvania. By 2020, that number had jumped to 26 percent.

"I’m not sure about the rest of Missouri, but we had not seen xylazine in Texas County," Lasater tells the RFT. "It's a very dangerous drug."

Lasater says that there have been reporters of xylazine being added to fentanyl to extend its euphoric effects.

Lasater is also responsible for investigating the other recent inmate deaths at SCCC.

She says that two of the other seven men died from fentanyl. One man, 35-year-old Demarco Washington had a level of fentanyl in his system three times what is fatal.

Two others died of lung cancer. Results are still pending for the others.

This project was completed with the support of a grant from Columbia University's Ira A. Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights in conjunction with Arnold Ventures.

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About The Author

Ryan Krull

Ryan Krull is a staff writer for the Riverfront Times. Find him on Twitter @ryanwkrull
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