What is Medetomidine aka Domitor?

Written by Will Long

Medetomidine, sold under the brand name Domitor, is a potent veterinary sedative and analgesic that has recently emerged as a dangerous adulterant in illicit drugs across the United States. Originally developed for use in both small and large animals, medetomidine produces sedation, pain relief, muscle relaxation and anxiolytic effects. However, this drug is not approved for human use and can have life-threatening consequences when mixed with illegal substances.

Pharmacology of Medetomidine

Medetomidine belongs to the class of drugs known as alpha-2 adrenergic agonists, which also includes xylazine, another common adulterant. These drugs work by activating alpha-2 receptors in the brain and peripheral nervous system. Compared to other drugs in its class, medetomidine is an extremely potent and selective alpha-2 agonist. Its strong sedative and analgesic properties make it useful for veterinary procedures, but also attractive as an additive to enhance the effects of illicit opioids and stimulants.

Medetomidine in the Illicit Drug Supply

Since July 2022, medetomidine has increasingly been detected in drug seizures and overdose cases across multiple states, including Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, and Florida. It is most commonly found in combination with the synthetic opioid fentanyl and the animal tranquilizer xylazine, although it has also appeared alongside heroin, cocaine, and other fentanyl analogs. The growing presence of medetomidine in the illicit drug supply poses a major public health threat, as many users are unknowingly exposed to this substance and its adverse effects.

Dangers of Medetomidine

Medetomidine can cause severe central nervous system and respiratory depression, potentially leading to coma or death – especially when combined with opioids. Other dangerous effects include:

  • Bradycardia (slow heart rate)
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • Spontaneous muscle twitching
  • Mydriasis (pupil dilation)

In animal studies and the few known cases of human exposure, medetomidine overdose is characterized by deep sedation, slowed and ineffective breathing, loss of consciousness, and cardiovascular collapse. Unlike opioid overdose, it is not reversible with the overdose antidote naloxone. There is no antidote currently available for medetomidine toxicity; intensive supportive care and mechanical ventilation are required.

CFSRE toxic adulterant alert press release
CFSRE toxic adulterant alert press release

The Rise of Novel Adulterants

The increasing adulteration of street drugs with medetomidine reflects a disturbing trend of clandestine labs and drug traffickers adding potent, unregulated substances to already dangerous products. Other novel psychoactive substances and unusual additives have also been reported, creating a highly unpredictable and toxic illicit drug market. People who use illegal drugs, especially opioids, are now at even greater risk of overdose and death due to the proliferation of these contaminants.

How JourneyPure At The River Can Help

At JourneyPure At The River, we understand the ever-changing landscape of substance use disorders and the complexities of addiction. Our experienced clinical team stays up-to-date on the latest drug trends, including the rise of veterinary sedatives as adulterants, to provide the most informed and comprehensive treatment. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, we’re here to help before it’s too late. Call us now at 615-410-9260 to learn more about our evidence-based, compassionate care and begin your journey to recovery.