Well being officers in San Francisco are sounding the alarm about an animal tranquilizer that’s being blended into unlawful medication after a handful of overdose victims have been discovered to have the substance of their system.
Low ranges of xylazine, a non-opioid veterinary tranquilizer often called “Tranq,” has been detected within the 4 individuals who just lately died whereas utilizing medication, the San Francisco Division of Public Well being mentioned last week.
Xylazine is commonly blended with fentanyl, heroin and different unlawful medication, officers mentioned. The drug isn’t federally authorized for human use.
San Francisco’s re-tested drug deaths final 12 months for xylazine and has integrated it into its surveillance testing in 2023.
“As a result of it’s not that frequent, it’s not routinely examined for,” Dr. Gary Tsai, the director of substance abuse prevention and management for the Los Angeles County Division of Public Well being, informed the Los Angeles Instances. “It’s potential that it’s extra on the market.”
San Francisco well being officers mentioned that the 4 xylazine victims died between mid-December and mid-January. Dr. Tsai mentioned that he additionally knew of finally one such dying in his county, in 2021.
Xylazine is understood to be within the East Coast’s illegal-drug provide, however it now seems to be shifting west.
The drug “could be smoked, snorted or injected. It causes extreme pores and skin ulcerations that unfold and worsen shortly,” San Francisco well being officers mentioned. “Repeated xylazine injection has additionally been related to extreme, necrotic pores and skin lesions typically requiring superior wound care. These wounds might happen in areas of the physique away from the injection website.”
Officers additionally mentioned that the substance could cause extreme sleepiness and respiratory despair that mimic opioid overdoses and the results of heroin, thus making it tougher to detect xylazine.
Including to the hazard, in keeping with Dr. Tsai, is that xylazine is proof against naloxone, the emergency drug that may reverse an opioid overdose.
A Drug Enforcement Administration report from October mentioned that xylazine isn’t listed as a managed substance within the U.S. Managed Substances Act. With out that designation, it will probably fly below the radar of regulation enforcement businesses seeking to crack down on unlawful medication.
“It could additionally entice prospects on the lookout for an extended excessive since xylazine is described as having lots of the identical results for customers as opioids, however with a longer-lasting impact than fentanyl alone,” the DEA report mentioned.
Xylazine-positive overdose deaths skyrocketed nationwide between 2020 and 2021, in keeping with the DEA. The largest leap got here within the southern states, the place the substance was detected in 116 overdose deaths in 2020 earlier than surging to 1,423 in 2021.