An animal tranquilizer for large animals such as cattle that is reportedly being combined with other drugs and found in individuals who overdose is concerning public health officials.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced it was taking action to ensure xylazine is being imported only to be used for legitimate veterinary supply needs, not for illegal human consumption.

Syracuse officials, however, have confirmed the presence of xylazine in drugs in upstate New York, and are reporting a spike in overdoses related to the drug this week.

“Why it's in there is not clear, but it's something that's being contaminated in the drug supply purposefully by whoever makes drugs,” said Dr. Sarah Mahonski, assistant professor at Upstate Medical University and assistant medical director at Upstate New York Poison Center.

She said it’s possible xylazine is in the drug supply because it’s cheaper and it looks like an opioid. But it’s not an opioid, and Mahonski said it can be mistaken for one because of its appearance and effects.

“The way that the body will look after you ingest this drug looks similar to an opioid," Mahonski said. "The pupils get very small. The heart rate is decreased, and the patient's mental status and breathing may also be depressed. And so sometimes, it looks very similar to what it looks like when you take heroin.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says people report using xylazine with fentanyl to lengthen its euphoric effects.

Treatment for the drug does not include Naloxone. Instead, Mahonski said treatment of a xylazine overdose would be hospital-based care with supported breathing and possibly a ventilator.

Mahonski said she doesn’t think it’s the kind of drug people will accidentally consume in their everyday lives if they're not using street drugs, but cautions the public to not take a drink or drugs from someone they don’t know. She also encouraged people during emergencies to call 911. If you have questions about xylazine, call your area’s poison control center.

“We do know that probably about 20 percent of the drug supply right now may contain xylazine. I don't know that xylazine is any more dangerous to us than fentanyl, aside that there's no reversal agent. So, I mean, if you see any sort of unknown powder, I would use gloves, stay away from it.”