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The Danger of Xylazine Is Here to Stay

The Danger of Xylazine Is Here to Stay

The spread of xylazine, a powerful sedative not meant for people, in the illegal drug trade in the US is causing serious concern. Mixed with opioids like fentanyl, xylazine increases the risk of deadly overdoses. There’s a growing presence of xylazine in illegal drugs, posing health dangers and prompting efforts to reduce harm.

Increase in Cases and Differences by Region

Recent CDC data shows a worrying trend: xylazine is turning up in drug samples all over the country. From 2020 to 2021, labs noted a rise in contamination, especially in the Southern US. Studies in different places support this. For example, a study covering ten major cities found a big jump in xylazine-related deaths, from under 1% in 2015 to almost 7% in 2020. Samples from needle exchange programs in Maryland showed the drug in nearly 80% of opioid samples. In Philadelphia, it was involved in 31% of heroin or fentanyl overdose deaths in 2019.

Government Action and Policies

The White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy takes the problem seriously. They’ve labeled the mix of fentanyl and xylazine as a new danger. On July 11, 2023, they issued a plan to tackle this growing problem. This plan focuses on working together between different levels of government and communities to fight the spread of drugs mixed with xylazine.

Understanding Xylazine: Where It Comes From and What It Does

Xylazine, known on the street as “tranq” or “tranq dope,” is a sedative used mainly for animals. It’s not allowed for use in humans in the US. It works by slowing down the central nervous system. When people take it, they can experience sedation, trouble breathing, low blood pressure, slow heart rate, and sometimes death. They also experience a deep, sedating euphoria.

How Xylazine Gets Mixed with Drugs

Drug dealers are adding it to drugs like cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl to make them stronger or worth more money. Users might not even know it’s there. According to the DEA, xylazine-fentanyl mixes have been found in 48 out of 50 states. In 2022, about 23% of seized fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl pills contained the additive.

Health Risks

Besides making people sleepy, xylazine combined with opioids like fentanyl can cause severe breathing problems, leading to deadly overdoses. Plus, it makes it harder to recognize and treat them because standard methods for reversing opioid overdoses might not work.

Dealing with Overdoses

If someone overdoses on drugs mixed with xylazine, it’s crucial to act fast. Naloxone can help reverse opioid overdoses, but it might not work as well when other drugs are involved. Most first responders suggest using naloxone if fentanyl is suspected.

If there’s a chance of xylazine contamination, mouth-to-mouth breathing and CPR might be needed, too. Medical help should be sought right away, as the effects of can last even after naloxone is given.

Fighting Back Against Xylazine

To fight the crisis, communities need to work together. This means educating people, providing ways to reduce harm, and making sure treatment and support services are available. Laws protecting people who seek help during overdoses, along with distributing naloxone widely and teaching people how to respond to overdoses, can save lives and create a caring community.

Xylazine mixed with illegal drugs is a significant threat to public health, worsening the already serious opioid crisis in the country. To stop the spread of harm and death, we need to stay watchful, act with targeted efforts, and involve everyone from policymakers and law enforcement to healthcare providers and community members.

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