An animal tranquilizer used by veterinarians is increasingly showing up in street drugs, complicating addiction and causing wounds so acute that some require amputation. Xylazine is a deadly drug, causing flesh to decay at the injection site. Dubbed ‘Tranq' for the oblivion it renders, its use is increasing nationwide, but especially in upstate New York.
The sedative is generally used to bulk up illicit fentanyl, making its impact even more devastating. At the injection site, Xylazine creates wounds that often erupt with a scaly dead tissue called eschar; untreated, this can lead to amputation. The drug also causes a blackout stupor, often lasting hours, which makes its users especially vulnerable to bodily crime. When the user comes out of the blackout state, they crave more of the drug instantly.
A study published in June detected xylazine in 25 percent of drug samples in New York City, though health officials say the actual saturation is certainly greater. While Narcan has aided in treating overdoses, Xylazine is a sedative, not an opioid, so it resists standard opioid overdose reversal treatment.
Another issue with its spread is that the drug exists in a legal gray area. It was approved in 1973 by the Food and Drug Administration as a veterinarian-prescribed analgesic. Neither hospitals nor state medical examiners test for its presence. As the sedative is not considered a controlled substance, it is not subject to strict monitoring as other drugs are. As a result, Xylazine moves under the radar of federal law enforcement agencies.
In a press release, New York State Senator Chuck Schumer said, “Upstate New York is seeing a dramatic rise in Xylazine, a horrific skin rotting zombie drug, plaguing our streets, overwhelming law enforcement and causing serious concern because it is Narcan resistant, putting lives at greater risk. The feds need to accelerate their efforts to crack down on this drug illegally being shipped from overseas and unlawfully making its way onto the streets of Syracuse, Cortland County and communities across New York."
He added, “In far too many communities, including the Central New York, the pandemic has made opioid addiction and its health impacts worse, and Xylazine could make this growing problem even more deadly which is why we need the feds to step up now. We need an all-of-the-above approach: cutting off the flow of drugs, aid to our law enforcement, more interdiction, prevention, treatment and recovery for those suffering with addiction.”
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